How To Capture Your Great Ideas

Photo Credit: Mark Turnauckas
Photo Credit: Mark Turnauckas

I treat grocery shopping like an agent on a secret mission. Car keys in hand, shoes laced, I walk in a straight line. “Get in, buy the bananas and the oatmeal, and then leave.”, I say. “Pick them up, pay for them, and get back to your regular life.”

“Not so fast,” says the grocery store. “We have sales, we have pastries, and we have candy! We have lobster tanks, fresh kale, and 37 different kinds of yogurt.” And it is all true. Children are crying, and other carts are in the way. It was hard to fit in the parking spot. And do you hear that noise from the cash registers? Each blip erases a little more of my short-term memory. That’s what it was designed for.

What was I here to buy? Oh yeah, I wrote it down.

As a composer (and now blogger), I find it necessary to capture ideas and inspiration however I can. My memory is a tricky thing. I have lost plenty of ideas I thought I would never forget because they were just so obvious or amazing. (They rarely are.) The trouble is, life is like the grocery store. There are a million distractions. Here are a few ways I write down and organize my ideas before they get away:

1. Evernote. A simple, free program that lets you write notes and organize them into notebooks. It also has a great app for my iPhone that syncs all my notes and lets me take them wherever I go.

2. Audio recording. Just like a detective speaking into a tape recorder, I sometimes say or sing my ideas into my phone while I’m walking around outside. This is perfect when there is no time to stop and write anything!

3. Scraps of paper.
There’s almost always something to write on, whether a newspaper, napkin, or gum wrapper. Sometimes all I need to write down is a trigger word to remember the whole idea later. I also used to keep quarter-size sheets of staff paper in my pocket so I could write down melodies that were in my head.

4. Journal. There’s something nice about writing things down with a pencil in ye olde fashioned notebooke. Plus, the notes are there to leaf through months or years later, just where you left them.

I want to know – what’s your favourite way to capture an idea? (This could be musical, a grocery list, or notes for your next meeting. Whatever you need to remember!)

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