Oct 9, 2009

Inspiring Idea: Idea Archival

Oct 9, 2009
Both Luke and I spend quite a decent amount of time Documenting and Archiving our ideas, be it character concepts or simply a line of dialogue. As a result, it surprised me to meet writers who don't keep any of their ideas at all. Not documenting my ideas seems to me like a carpenter who throws out all his tools after every job - or a squirrel not storing nuts for the winter.

Of course, it is their prerogative, and in fact one of our revered mentors told us himself that he doesn't really keep notes. But if you'll indulge me I'd like to put down not just my How, but my Why.


As writers, our careers at their basic level seem to be almost entirely based on two things:

1) Our ideas, and 2) Our ability to convey them.

To talk about them in reverse order: The second one, Conveyance, is about Skill, Instinct, Study, Experience, Flexibility and so on - things covered in the majority of articles both here and on other sites. If I were to over-simplify the principal, I would call it the Quality.

The first one, Ideas, is about Inspiration, Productivity, Creativity and Brain-Storming Ability. Roughly speaking, it is the Quantity. People always tend to sneer at Quantity, but if you only have one idea every 10 years, it really doesn't matter how good that idea is.

Now if I was blessed with such a mastery of the Quantity that I always had a solution to this or that script problem, or could instantly come up with the perfect original gag on the spur of the moment then hot dog, that would be dandy.

However, if you're human like me, you will have your off days, you'll draw a blank or maybe you'll just be plain ol' bashing your head against a wall. Well, it's on those days that your Muse is visiting an Aunt, that Idea Archival comes to the rescue - think of it as a Quantity supplement. Years of un-copyrighted material ready for the picking.

Winter has come and you have a hollow full of nuts. Delicious.


I have, as of two years ago, completely digitized my notes. I use MacJournal, created by the wizards at Mariner Software - and yes, for all of you brave people still battling through the murk of certain other Operating Systems, there is a version for you. (EDIT: It is now available for iPhone and iPod Touch)

This is probably my most invaluable writing tool... directly under actual scripting software of course.
Voice Recorder
Luke has made better use of this than me (mainly because I don't have a voice recorder, and he does) but not only is it more portable and easier to record the more complex ideas, but it captures the feel and energy of the original creation.

For the longest time we didn't use voice recording simply because it was too hard to store them, or to find the right note. However, ever since finding that MacJournal holds audio (not to mention pictures and video), it's been a simple matter of pasting it in and writing a simple descriptive caption.

Dream Journal
This one might just be me, but it's a free and constant source of uncontrolled creativity. I've gotten some very interesting visual ideas over the years that I would have never come up with myself, as well as even some potential short films.

Not to mention disturbing glimpses into my raw psychotic innermost.


So they are some of the ways I record my ideas. In passing I'm also going to mention the Image Archiving post, even though it's more about Inspiration rather than actual Ideas.

I'd love to hear your methods for documentation. Take a screenshot of your Folders and post a link in the Comments section - Or copy down your MacJournal layout - Or even take a picture of that tattered cardboard box with the reams of unsorted A4 poking out from under your bed. Whatever you have, let's share it with the group.


  1. ooh, macjournal, sounds fun and organised cause im having trouble understanding my own handwriting.

    thats strange a writer doesnt keep ideas, its almost stupid.
    haha, i used to attempt dream journal wen i was obsessed with ufo's and just kept dreaming about ufo's (im fine now)

    yeh i believe we need more quality and original ideas in australian film,anyone can write a script but its the idea and the way it is executed that makes it special. (aussies do alot of drama, whats up with that)

    my ideas are scattered in 50 different notebooks from since i was 12. man it would be painful to read now. i have some images somwhere.
    i found ur squirel analogy special

  2. this is half of them ( you can see my drawings are not that good)


    bad handwriting

  3. Ahh, I should have remembered - I could have almost linked straight to them. Ha ha, even your notes are works of art.

    The people I met who didn't write down their ideas were far from stupid - I guess some people just work differently.

  4. I have my ideas written on a srcap of A4 paper lying around somewhere, I suspect I have lost it, perhaps I should try this macjournal software you speak of.

    As for my OS, I am proud to say that I have thoroughly beat Vista into submission, it was a long and irritating process, but I can now claim that Vista is my Biatch, and not many people get to make that claim.

  5. I'm impressed - I've heard it's like house-training an elephant.


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