Saturday, July 6, 2024

Organize Your Writing Life: Learn to Capture, Catalog, and Retrieve Writing Ideas

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

Part of being organized as a writer means we have to be able to capture, catalog, and retrieve writing ideas. That can actually be harder than you think. 

Writing ideas are illusive things. Just when you're certain you'll remember, the idea vanishes without a trace. Beyond that, inspiration is a fickle thing. And while we all need to keep writing whether we’re inspired or not, that rush of creativity is nice. What's not nice is not being able to capture it when you're away from your computer.

There's nothing as disheartening as those times happens when inspiration strikes and we’re not ready to capitalize on it. So today I’m going to help you be ready. 

Be Ready When Writing Ideas Appear

1. Always keep a notebook nearby. It doesn’t matter if it’s a digital app or a physical book filled with actual paper. All too often I’ve thought I’d remember an idea or a new twist without writing it down. I rarely do. Beyond that, I spend a lot of time and angst trying to remember the brilliant idea. 

2. Have a way to record ideas handy. When driving, make sure you know how to record voice memos on your phone. Every smart phone has this capability and there are also numerous apps that can record your voice as well. 

3. Snag headlines and news stories that intrigue you. You can take a screenshot of digital articles, or use a program like Evernote. For newspaper headlines, use old-fashioned scissors and a manila file folder to keep track.

4. Take notes—Additional Notes. When you snap or snip an interesting article, be sure to include notes to remind yourself why that particular piece caught your attention. There is nothing more frustrating than coming across something you thought was important with no idea why you thought it was important.

5. Set up a system to keep track of those illusive ideas. These can be digital documents on your computer or a filing system in a nearby drawer, just make sure you can retrieve those ideas after you record them. For me, I use a series of files on my computer. I have one for quotes, one for blog post ideas, another for clever names, one for possible articles, etc.

6. Add a visual prompt to your idea. I admit it, I’m a born lurker. I’ve been known to snap surreptitious pictures of interesting people when I’m out and about. I also take shots of places and things that I’d like to later describe—either in an article or a work of fiction.

7. Become a professional eavesdropper. Observation is a powerful tool. So along the lines of always having a notebook handy, take note of the conversations going on around you. But don’t stop with just the words that are spoken, write down the body language, tone, setting, everything that makes up an intriguing scene.

Each of these things on the list came directly from a lost idea because I wasn’t ready to capture it and hold on. I’d love to know what you’d add to the list.

Don’t forget to join the conversation,


Edie Melson is a woman of faith with ink-stained fingers observing life through the lens of her camera. No matter whether she’s talking to writers, entrepreneurs, or readers, her first advice is always “Find your voice, live your story.” As an author, blogger, and speaker she’s encouraged and challenged audiences across the country and around the world. Her numerous books reflect her passion to help others develop the strength of their God-given gifts and apply them to their lives. Connect with her on her website, through Facebook, Twitter and on Instagram.


  1. Your are so right about the illusive part!! I keep notebooks and pens on my nightstand, my kitchen counter, living room and back porch. If I don't write ideas down immediately, they are gone within minutes. I've been known to dash to my computer still soaking wet, wrapped in a towel, in a rush to get down inspiration I got in the shower. I'm never sorry I wrote them down!

  2. Edie,

    Being organized and capturing ideas is critical for every writer. For me, the ideas come at often inconvenient times but need to be captured--on the paper in my pocket or my phone. Then I need to return and take action on those ideas. I use and reuse these stories and ideas as a n important part of my writing life.


    author of Book Proposals That $ell, 21 Secrets To Speed Your Success (Revised Edition) [Follow the Link for a FREE copy]