The Brewing Method of Idea Processing
When an author starts out writing, ideas seem quite precious. We often
feel like we only have a few really good ones, so we shepherd them
carefully. We protect them from those we imagine would steal them, and
we envision the heights of achievement they will bring us.
Then, as we grow and start actually bringing those ideas to fruition,
funny things happen. For one, we get more of them. Lots more. We still
get that new-idea rush whenever one occurs to us, but there just isn’t
enough time to put the care into them that they really need in order
to flourish. In addition, we discover that what we think is a
brilliant idea when we first have it, actually turns out to be more
trouble than it’s worth. Sometimes we find out only after we’ve put
hours and hours of work into it. The effect of these two influences
can be quite demoralizing, as we find ourselves wasting significant
effort on ideas that really aren’t the best choices. They were made on
the spur of the moment, and those choices often aren’t good ones. I
personally found myself entangled in these knots on more than one
I have developed a solution that works, at least for me.
Step one: Idea Notebook
Carry a paper notebook, and something to write with, everywhere you
go. It needs to be paper and it needs to have a fairly small capacity;
the absolute maximum is a composition book, the black and white ones
they sometimes use in high schools. Anytime you have an idea, jot it
down. If it relates to another idea you’ve had, jot it down on that
idea’s page, otherwise give it its own page. If you’re like me, it
will fill up in less than two months time.
Step two: Another Idea Notebook
When it’s full, buy a new notebook. Immediately start putting your new
ideas in it, but as soon as you can, go on to step three.
Step three: Transcribe the good stuff
Go through idea notebook number one, page by page, and ask yourself if
the idea still fires you like it did when you first had it. If it
doesn’t, don’t copy it into the new notebook. If it does, copy it
over. It may change when you copy it over, and it may get merged with
other ideas. Let that happen.
Step four: Let it stew
After a while, you’ll start to have ideas in this notebook that are
beginning to be more than just ideas. They’ll be whole clusters of
ideas, whole concepts that are beginning to develop. You may be
tempted to believe that it is time to take that idea and do something
with it. Restrain yourself. Go finish everything else that you have
committed to finishing.
Step five: Enjoy!
When you have cleared your schedule, and it’s time to write something
new, go through and find the one thing that you can finish. The one
thing that has been aching to get worked on, the one thing that has
been itching at you on every transcription. If there is more than one,
see if you can combine them. Then get to work.
That’s my method. It helps me stay out of project overload, it helps
me keep my mind on task, and it helps me keep a good perspective on
the ideas I have from day to day. I hope it works for you as well as
it works for me.