Collecting Ideas


Memory Failure

Ideas are tricky things. If you’re anything like me, ideas pop in and out of your head all day long. But I have a short term memory. My brain doesn’t hold on to much at length unless I make a conscious effort, and even then I’m not always successful. I’m not sure if having three babies is an excuse or a reason for memory failure, but either way, I juggle way too many things on a given day to rely on memory alone.

An Idea File

Because of that, my brain always feels a little ADD. At home, I’m like a pinball who bounces between the individual needs of my three children and my current work-in-progress (whatever creative project that may be). So when an idea pops into my head, I’ve got to snag that sucker within a minute or it’s gone for good.

Which is why I keep an Idea File. For me, it’s just a folder where I save creative nuggets. When I rip a page out of a magazine or save a scrap from a catalog, it’s just a useless tidbit that struck me out of the blue as a cool idea. It’s not a project or a plan. The idea itself possesses no pressure or promise– at this point, it’s nothing more than food for thought. By filing it away, I’m saving that seed for a later date when I have time to let it germinate.

Growing an Idea

All ideas aren’t equal, but they all contain potential. Like planting seeds, ideas need a certain environment to grow. If I’m in the middle of my busy day, I can’t predict when an idea will strike, or if my mind will happen to be fertile soil at that moment. Saving the seed of promise into a file is my method of protecting it from the pecking birds (AKA my cluttered brain). And when the rains of inspiration pour, I have a stash of go-to ideas.

Just recently I was feeling the itch to paint. But subject? I had none. So I cracked open my file cabinet. Amidst the scraps of papers I found a picture of a painting I’d saved from over a year ago. It wasn’t anything noteworthy, just something that I’d liked at one point in time. But that day, when I was searching for subject matter, my open mind was a rainstorm for that seed. And there was another factor. A painting I’d recently finished was the perfect fertilizer to nourish this new idea, reminding me how to design a work that I’d really like.

The One That Got Away

When ideas drop in, they don’t always seem grand enough to make a difference. It’s all too easy to let them slip away. After all, it takes energy to pause the DVR and go find a sketchpad, to pull the shopping cart aside and dig for a camera at the bottom of your purse, to click out of Facebook and jot something in your scribble book. It’s easier to be lazy, to let that fleeting idea escape, and be none the wiser about what you’ve lost. After all, it’s just a measly seed. But with the proper conditions, its potential is so much greater. And you might never know the harvest that one tiny kernel could produce.

Don’t let your next idea be the one that got away.

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  1. #1 by Jessie Sanders on February 8, 2011 - 12:01 pm

    You’ve convinced me, Becca. Must needs get idea folder post haste!

  2. #3 by Courtney Cantrell on February 8, 2011 - 12:45 pm

    Becca, I have an idea folder, too! Sadly, I quit using it at some point, because it was stuffed so full that things were falling out of it. That’s when I said to myself, “Self,” I said, “we need to organize this thing.” But the left brain never has kicked in to do that. ;)

    Since I am now in possession of a fully functional scribblebook, at least the written stuff gets saved. I guess it’s time to start a new folder of scraps, pages, and doodles!

  3. #4 by Becca J. Campbell on February 8, 2011 - 2:20 pm

    My idea folder isn’t organized, either. But as of yet I don’t mind that. Since my right-brain is the one leading the search for creative food, I guess it doesn’t mind the sloppiness. ;)

    • #5 by Courtney Cantrell on February 9, 2011 - 1:10 pm

      Understood! My only reason for wanting to organize the folder is that too often, I’ve gone to it looking for something specific and couldn’t find what I wanted. Those are the times I end up dumping the whole thing out on the floor and sifting through it — which then requires me to clean up a mess. Which is something my right brain just doesn’t care to do. ; )

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