Creative Lists

posted in: On Creativity, The Tools | 1

This is not a new idea.

But, then, I remember hearing when I was in high school that there are no new ideas under the Sun, only new ways to implement them.  And, remember, every story you tell, is uniquely your own.  So, the age-old question about creative ideas, right?  Where do they come from?  The answer I got was that they come in a plain, brown wrapper from Schenectady.  (That was from Frank Herbert, author of [amazon_link id=”0441172717″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Dune[/amazon_link], via a phone call into a radio show.)  The more serious answer was that they sort of well up from the subconscious.  We feed our subconscious heaps and heaps of information and it rattles around in there until some creative alchemy works on it and spits out a new idea.  William Gibson calls the process of collecting that raw material, those nuggets of info that cook and combine into ideas, as adding raw material into “the hopper”.  It’s as good an analogy as any. The problem is, when those transmogrified ideas come back to you, they don’t always do it when it’s convenient to work with them.  And no one wants to lose any of those brilliant ideas, do we?  So, what to do?

Well, over at The Writer’s Room, they have an article talking about collecting some of that info into a “spark file”.  The idea is simple; just throw those random, creative thoughts that we all get and discard over and over again all day long into a file.  I, personally, just use a text file on Dropbox or my [amazon_link id=”B005FNDJHS” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Pogoplug[/amazon_link] NAS.  I throw all kinds of random things into those files.  In one, I have links that I collect to work into the regular Friday posts I do here and regular posts at other sites.  In another, I have random ideas about titles and story plots and characters.  I’ve also heard it called an “idea net”.  In fact, I used to have a little [amazon_link id=”8883701003″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Moleskine[/amazon_link] that I had labeled my “idea net”.  Sadly, that got lost, so I started with the text files.  And, when I’m away from my computer, I can just send myself a text message or an email with the idea to add in to the file later.  I know some people use Evernote for all that, which has convenient clients for most smart phones, to make inputting easier.

Of course, there’s no need to limit the use of spark files to writing.  You could easily have a spark file of places you want to shoot photographs, or crazy things to put into a portrait, or some new way of using a flash modifier or what have you.   In fact, the infamous David Hobby of Strobist fame talks about doing just that; keeping a photographic idea list.  Pretty much all the things you’ve ever read about keeping lists, even the venerable and much maligned “to do” list, can be applied to any kind of creative endeavor, whether ultimately expressed via the written word or via a visual medium.  Creativity is creativity.

So, why not start your very own “spark file”, or “idea net” or whatever you want to call it, today?
(Oh, also, happy Valentine’s Day!  Enjoy the crowded restaurants!  Or stay home and enjoy your love!)