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a:Managing the Idea Factory

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Back in December, I wrote the following in an Instagram post: 

Here’s something you need to know about creative people. We have notebooks all over the place filled with our ideas and scraps of projects. We drink a lot of caffeine. We have periodic bouts of insomnia because we can’t turn our brains off. We get discouraged when we can’t see immediate results from the creative process. We drive our loved ones crazy. But is who we are, and we can’t change that. Nor would we ever want to. 

There are times when my brain is flooded with ideas and I can’t keep track of them. And then there days when I feel I don’t have a creative bone in my body left. The problem is that I struggle with organizing my ideas and moving projects forward. For my day job as a magazine editor, I constantly have to search for ideas for monthly content. We have monthly themes for each magazine, so that helps. I keep things organized in a very basic spreadsheet in Excel, month by month, and fill in each department as I confirm ideas and assign articles. I use Excel to track my monthly income from magazines, articles and blog posts, along with a brief description of individual assignments. For my other personal writing projects, however, the structure is just not there. 

I have a notebook I’ve labeled as being for “True Crime,” and if you peek inside, you’ll see jumbled lists of names, dates, places, ideas for true crime blog posts, cases I want to research for my podcast, and ideas for social media posts and e-newsletters. I would be in big trouble if I lost that notebook because unless a script or blog post is already written, I don’t have a backup source of content ideas. 

While researching efficient ways to organize my ideas, I found my head spinning as one blogger described using a program called Evernote to capture her ideas, Google spreadsheets to organize them and then another program to manage the workflow of each idea. Maybe I’m just an undisciplined mess, but the whole process made me more confused than ever. 

I would love to come up with some other organized system for capturing and executing my ideas, but so far I haven’t come across one. I’ve spoken before about how I consider myself a “pantser” rather than a “plotter,” when it comes to writing, but lately this seems to be hindering the creative process more than I’d like. I don’t want to shut down the idea factory that seems to be churning in my brain as of late but if I don’t find a way to streamline the inspiration, I’m afraid I’ll lose it for good. 

How do you keep track of ideas for your writing projects and stay on track? I’m open to any and all suggestions!


Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and freelance magazine editor who also hosts the true crime podcast, Missing in the Carolinas. Learn more at FinishedPages.com.

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