Writing and Technology: Dealing With Ideas

The great thing about technology as far as writing is concerned is that we need never forget a brilliant idea. I sometimes think to myself how much I admire writers (or, indeed, anyone) in centuries past for writing anything at all. I mean, if you're travelling on foot or by horse and carriage in the 18th century and you ahve a great idea for a story, how do you jot it down? Did http://www.pepys.info/Samuel Pepys, for example, carry a quill and an inkwell around with him?

I suppose that most of the time such issues never affected most people. Only a small elite was able to read, and en even smaller elite able to get their work published. But what of the present?

One of the words people use to describe me is 'prolific'. If that's the case, how do I manage to write so much? I think there are three factors.

Firstly, I have lots of ideas for articles. In this respect I don't think I am any different to anyone else.

Secondly, I act on those ideas. I think that probably in this respect I am different from a lot a people. I've met plenty of wannabe writers who bemoan the fact that they have never had anything puiblished, forgetting the inconvenient fact that in order to do so you actually have to write something. Maslow distinguised between primary and secondary creativity. The former is having the ideas and creativity in the first place. The latter is being prepared to go through the agonising process of writing something, tearing it up, and starting again. This, for example, is my second attempt to write an article connecting writing with technology. I spent nearly an hour on the first one before deciding it was a lost cause.

Perhaps this is what Oscar Wilde meant when he said, "This morning I took out a comma and this afternoon I put it back in again."

And read Gerald Haigh's comment on my post entitled The Right Writing Style. He says:

"Time and again, when I write an article, I go back and cut the whole of the first para. That's because I've sort of used it to get up speed, and it ends up being quite redundant. The general point is that ruthlessness with the virtual scissors is essential for all writers. "Kill your babies" is oft-used saying -- i.e. don't be afraid to cut favourite lines. You may be the only one who thinks they're any good."

Thirdly, how do I ensure that I remember the ideas I have? In my time I have used several kinds of technology to help me:

· A notebook and pen. You can't beat it for speed, reliability and robustness.
· A cell phone. I use the notes feature to jot down some points.
· Alternatively, sometimes I will leave a message for myself on voicemail, so it will remind me when I arrive home.
· I've sometimes used digital recorders to record my thoughts whilst driving.
· I'm pretty good at creating visual prompts for myself. I always carry a camera around with me, or there is always my cell phone. A well-chosen photo is often all I need to remind me of what my earth-shattering idea was.
· I used to have a pocket computer called a Psion Organiser which I always carried around with me. It had a querty keyboard and I managed to get quite fast on it. I once even composed an entire issue of my newsletter, Computers in Classrooms, on it. Sadly, the ravages of time have rendered the screen virtually unreadable to me now, but I cannot bring myself to get rid of this wonderful little device.
· If I am out and about with my netbook and have discovered a nice cafe with a free wi-fi connection, I jot my ideas down in Google Docs, from where I can retirieve them once I get back home.
· If the nice café does not have wi-fi access, undaunted I will use OpenOffice for my scribblings.
· Finally, however I have recorded my ideas, I enter them into a Word document I have created called, erm, 'Article Ideas'. That keeps them fairly secure, in case I lose a notebook or my phone or another device gets trashed. I've tried those things which create a wordprocessed document from your handwriting, but my handwriting has become so illegible over the years that I spend more time correcting and spell-cking than I would spend typing it up from scratch!

Unlike Samuel Pepys, we don't have any excuse for forgetting ideas for articles if you're not within reach of a quill: think tech, and you can't go wrong!