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Thirteen articles to inspire you.
Leonardo da Vinci. Marie Curie.
Thomas Edison. Beatrix Potter.
What do all four of these people have in common?
Not only were they highly motivated and creative individuals, but they also all kept an idea journal.
An idea journal is quite different from a diary. You use an idea journal not to record all of the things that happened to you throughout the day, but to jot down daily goals, achievements, opinions, observations, or bits of inspiration. If you’re working on a project, you can fill the idea journal with updates on your progress, thoughts on how to improve the project, and anything else that motivates you.
A writer’s idea journal might be filled with ideas for stories or articles or blog posts (no need to fear writer’s block when you have an idea journal). An artist’s might contain sketches or inspirations for drawings. Ultimately, the idea journal exists as a private place to plant your ideas and watch them grow.
Here are four reasons why you should keep an idea journal.
Among Leonardo da Vinci’s many achievements, he was a brilliant artist, mathematician, engineer, scientist, and inventor.
In his notebooks, he filled pages and pages with sketches, scientific diagrams, ideas for new inventions, and reflections on art.
Because da Vinci was left-handed, he found it easier to write from right to left. That means his notes can only be read in a mirror. To make his writings even more private, he often employed a kind of shorthand and didn’t worry about perfect penmanship or proper punctuation.
What he did care about was carefully recording his lab notes and his many ideas for new inventions: everything from a flying machine to a submarine prototype.
Da Vinci’s notebooks ensured that he never forgot any of his ideas.
If you write down every great idea that comes into your head right away like da Vinci did, you will not have to worry about forgetting an idea ever again.
Further, the action of writing down an idea forces you to think more deeply about it.
The idea journal helps you clarify your thoughts and express them more clearly.
Thirteen things to tweak your creative bones.
Some weeks, my desktop is a disaster: full of papers and files and sticky notes with half-baked ideas. Yes, I am your typical “creative.” Disorganized and disheveled, I proudly chalk it up to the artist in me. But if I’m honest, this is embarrassing.
Clutter is not my friend; it is my enemy.
Clutter is procrastination. It is the Resistance, a subtle form of stalling and self-sabotage. And it keeps me (and you) from creating stuff that matters.
The mess is not inevitable. It is not cute or idiosyncratic. It is a foe, and it is killing your art.
Before beginning her career as a successful author and speaker, Patsy Clairmont did something unexpected. She washed the dishes.
She wanted to take her message to the world, but as she was readying herself, she felt nudged to start in an unusual way. She got out of bed and cleaned her house.
In other words, Patsy got rid of the mess. And it put her in a position to start living more creatively. We must do the same.
Bringing your message to the world does not begin on the main stage. It starts at home. In the kitchen. At your desk. On your cluttered computer. You need to clear your life of distractions, not perfectly, but enough so that there’s room for you to create.
The relationship between clutter and creativity is inverse. The more you have of the former, the less you have of the latter. Mess creates stress. Which is far from an ideal environment for being brilliant.
Jack White has an interesting philosophy on creativity. He believes less is more, that inspiration comes from restriction. If you want to be inspired, according to Jack, then give yourself boundaries. That’s where art blossoms.
At a public speaking conference earlier this year, I learned this truth, as it relates to communication. An important adage the presenters often repeated was:
If you can’t say it in three minutes, you can’t say it in 30.
We spent the week of the conference writing and delivering five-minute speeches every day. We learned that if we couldn’t summarize our ideas in a few short sentences, then we couldn’t elaborate on them for half an hour. Sure, we could ramble and rant. But that’s not communicating. It’s word vomit.
I’ve learned to do this with writing. If I can’t say what I want in a sentence or two, then I’m not ready to share the idea. Prematurely broadcasting an idea before it can be described succinctly will cause you to lose trust with your audience and cost the integrity of your message.
When attention is sparse, the people with the fewest, most important words win.
In a world full of noise, it’s nice not to have to weed through digital SPAM to find the nuggets worth reading. But this doesn’t come naturally. Succinctly getting your point across is a discipline.
I like to talk — a lot. I often process ideas out loud as they come to me. But I find this frustrating when other people do it. So I’m trying to master the art of clutter-free writing.
Here’s what I do: I write and write and write, getting all my on “paper” (or computer or whatever). Then, I take out as many words as possible while still clearly communicating my message.
Because if I can say it in five words instead of 15, I should.
This process of cleaning up your message is not intuitive for people. But it isimportant — an essential discipline for anyone with something to say. If you don’t know where to begin, start here:
For more on ways to be more structured and focus as a creative, I’ve found these books to be really helpful:
How do you deal with clutter and creativity? Share in the comments.
Thirteen articles to ponder.