All Those Little Ideas

This last week I made the decision to "spring clean" my office, even though, in Arizona we are well into the summer already. Clutter be gone, I'd decided. Which meant it was an opportunity to review and organize everything. I always think this effort will take a few hours and then I open one drawer in my desk. We'll call it my idea drawer. It's where I keep the short stories I've written, but never rewritten, the snippets of conversations I've overheard at the store, the coffee shop or the park I've jotted down on receipts, napkins and envelopes. And suddenly, the moments turn to hours as I realize the wealth of  wonderful material I've squirreled away.

As a beginner, I remember experienced writers telling me not to throw any of my writing away. They told me to carry a notebook and pen and write down the ideas. Even after decades of writing stuff, I still have challenges remembering to write the thoughts down. I'm not always consistent. In fact, just the other day I came across an article in a journal. I read it in between some work I needed to get done. Now sitting here, I can't for the life of me remember what it was I'd read, and worse yet, what my amazing idea for a novel was.

Here are some tips to keeping and organizing your ideas:

1. Carry paper and pens, use the recorder in your phone, or find a really great electronic notebook to use to put your thoughts down.

2. Organize your thoughts into folders. Your files might be titled conversations, metaphors, and ideas for pieces.

3. Keep these files at your fingertips for ease of retrieval, whether it be in electronic format or paper.

4. Review whenever you find yourself stuck. You might not find what you are looking for, but you just might realize how creative you are and that might push you through.


D. Jean Quarles is a writer of Women's Fiction and a co-author of a Young Adult Science Fiction Series. Her latest book, Flight from the Water Planet, Book 1 of The Exodus Series was written with coauthor, Austine Etcheverry.

D. Jean loves to tell stories of personal growth – where success has nothing to do with money or fame, but of living life to the fullest. She is also the author of the novels: Rocky's Mountains, Fire in the Hole and, Perception. The Mermaid, an award winning short story was published in the anthology, Tales from a Sweltering City.  

She is a wife, mother, grandmother and business coach. In her free time . . . ha! ha! ha! Anyway, you can find more about D. Jean Quarles, her writing and her books at her website at

You can also follower her at or on Facebook


Linda Wilson said...

Hi Jean, great post! I try to keep my ideas in a notebook but so often jot them down on scraps of paper. Once these pile up I go through them and put the good ideas in a binder, toss the rest. Reason is I can never remember where I put the notebook! Your post hit a chord and is motivating me to be more diligent!

T. Forehand said...

Organizing my thoughts and finding them again is one of my weakest areas. I have tons of ideas scratched out on paper pieces but not organized like it should be and many times the thoughts escape my memory. Thanks for the reminder that it is time to reorganize for productivity.

Mary Jo Guglielmo said...

Great post Jean. I use the Italk app on my phone to record ideas and beginning of articles/stories.

widdershins said...

Onee of the biggest folders on my computer is 'story ideas' ... and it just keeps getting bigger!

Magdalena Ball said...

Great tips Jean. I only just realised my phone has a built in recorder - a great way to capture ideas on the go (though paper and pens isn't bad either).

Karen Cioffi said...

Jean, great tips. I love Notes on my iPhone. And, I have a huge story and writing Files. The problem is I forget in which subfolder I save things.

And, what's been driving me crazy lately is knowing I've written something, some 'good' information, but can't find which article I have it in. With hundreds and hundreds of articles it gets tough.

I think I'll have to create an Excerpt File and put key points from each article.

Shirley Corder said...

Oh yes, I identify. Problem is my ideas rarely reach a drawer. I have pieces of paper everywhere and never know where to find them. Such disorganisation. Eventually they get thrown out because they no longer make sense! And yes Karen, I'm with you too. I waste so much time searching for articles I know I've written and saved . . . somewhere!

Debbie A Byrne said...

I'm still working on mine. Great post!

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