Not a long time ago, I had no fewer than three notebooks going. They each contained specific ramblings. One, which had the word PEACE artfully drawn on the cover, was a personal journal, which usually resided on my bedside table, though sometimes found its way into my handbag because I’d feverishly write something down in it that I’d want to refer to the next day. Another one, which had the word HAPPINESS on it in the same artful font, contained notes from lectures I attended or calls I’d been on, and information I wanted to remember about sessions with my clients. A third was a blue spiral notebook with notes from a course I was taking.
All this is to illustrate I was really good at taking notes, but was I really capturing anything?
What is the best way to capture your ideas and ah-ha moments?
A couple years ago, I went to a reading being given by David Sedaris. It took hours for the line of fans awaiting his signature to wind around the store past the table at which he was sitting. He took the time to talk to every person who presented him with a copy of the book to inscribe. Just as I was next in line, I spotted him take a tiny spiral notebook out of his shirt pocket and jot something down. I found his use of a mini notebook and pen rather charming, with all the electronic means available.
There’s a deeper question in all this: whether you’re using a reporter’s notebook or have taken to sending yourself random emails when inspiration strikes, how do you know which notes are worth investigating further and which you can just delete? Which ideas are truly brilliant and which are duds?
I use the notes app on my iPhone to record random ideas. I also carry a notebook in my purse – a small one that conveniently has a little elastic loop to keep the matching pen close-by. I have notes dating back to the month I got my phone nearly two years ago. I cringe when I look at some of them. (e.g. On April 17, 2011, I wrote, “women with balls.” I can only imagine I wanted to write something about courageous women using this paradoxical phraseology.) Then there are others that evoke recognition and a sort of curiosity. Perhaps those are the ones worth pursuing.
Paying attention to the feeling associated with these long-forgotten ah-ha moments is the first step in which to pursue further.
What else gets you jazzed about an old (or new) idea? What’s the feeling that makes you want to follow that rabbit down the rabbit hole?