Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May: Tips for Collecting and Organizing Ideas, Part 1 – Introduction
Image via Wikipedia
“Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,” poet Robert Herrick advised his readers — for all too soon, you’ll be old and rosebud-gathering will be just one of many things you are no longer capable of.
That’s the normal reading of the poem, but it occurs to me that it is in the very nature of rosebuds themselves to disappear — you have but a brief instant to pick them before they open into flowers, the rosebud gone forever.
For the writer, ideas are rosebuds — brief, fleeting thoughts that flit across our minds and then, if not captured in just that instant, disappear forever. Since those ideas are the stock in trade of a writer, catching them in that quick instant is essential. Unlike the flower-picker, though, writers’ rosebuds are not found only in the garden — they can be spotted at any time, requiring us to remain always alert and ready to pounce with our metaphorical shears.
There are a number of tools a writer can use to make sure s/he records as many ideas as s/he can — and great tools, also, for keeping track of them and calling them up when we need them. These tools range from decidedly low-tech pen-and-paper solutions to advanced freeform databases. In this series, I’ll offer a set of tools you can use in various contexts to capture ideas as they occur, and another set of tools to manage and reclaim them.
First, though, we need to think a little bit about process. Tying all these parts together requires work — not a lot of work, and not hard work, but work nonetheless. Ideally, it becomes part of your routine, a set of habits that occur automatically when triggered by a new idea.
There are four phases to idea collecting:
- Generate: We don’t have to wait until ideas come to us — in fact, doing so can doom us as writers! Give yourself time to let your mind do what it’s best at: come up with new ideas.
- Capture: Get ideas down wherever they occur to you..
- Process: Transfer ideas into a central “repository” to keep them safe and available.
- Organize and Evaluate: Review your system to pull out ideas worth pursuing right now.
As you look at the tools in the next few posts, think about how you can use them as part of an overall system. Each “phase” (except “Process”) will have its own post, with tools and tips for generating, capturing, and organizing ideas. Processing isn’t done with a tool, it’s done with time — sitting down and copying everything into your central system. Ideally, you’ll do this once a week or so — the point isn’t to figure out what’s good or bad, but just to handle the basic “bookkeeping” of transferring words from one medium to another.