If you’re like me, ideas swirl around you all the time — stories, characters, settings, dialogue, and so on. It sticks in your brain, so you write it down. Before long, you have so many scraps of paper around you that a single gust of wind could turn you into a human snow globe.
This is not good. You can write a novel only if you can find your notes — but how are you ever going to find a practical way to sift through all that stuff? Ideally, you want to spend as little time as possible sorting your notes and as much time as possible doing the actual writing. Well, consider your problem solved. Just follow these simple steps:
1. First and foremost, WRITE IT DOWN.
Don’t tell yourself that you’ll remember your idea later. You won’t. Human beings can hold something like seven to nine bits of information in mind at any given time. Once you crowd things up with grocery shopping, errands, cleaning, that thing you need to tell your neighbor about his dog and the phone call you need to make — poof, your great idea is gone forever. So write it down!
2. Every so often, gather up your notes.
Empty out your pockets. Clean out your nightstand. Rip pages out of your notebook. Pile up all of your notes in one convenient location. One of those office-supplyish “In Box” trays should work nicely. Or a shoe box. Whatever.
3. Pocket everything.
This is the key ingredient, the gem, the single best tip in this article: Use pocket folders. Or ordinary file folders. Or those expandable accordion things. Anything with a pocket that can hold different size scraps of paper. Make one pocket per project. If you have ideas for more than one book, make a different pocket for each one. If you have a bunch of random story ideas, just make a “Story Ideas” folder. You get the idea.
Why pockets? Because they’re fast. You can pick up a piece of paper, decide which pocket it belongs in, and just drop it in. You don’t have to worry about putting it in some kind of sequence, or pasting it into a notebook, or punching binder holes in it. Or, heaven forbid, actually retyping it into a computer. No, instead you can just drop it into the proper pocket and get on with your life. In this way, you can dig through that massive pile of notes in no time.
And the hidden bonus is that it clears your mind. You don’t have to worry about trying to remember all of those great ideas right now. They’re safely put away, ready for you when you need them. And now they’re sorted out by project, so you have everything at your fingertips. How cool is that?