Creative or Want To Be? Remember to Keep An Idea Notebook Handy

Idea notebook

Ideas flash into your mind triggered by an inspiration, hitting like lightning.

Good idea or bad, sometimes you don’t get a chance to decide. They leave as quickly as they come.

That ideas good and bad leave is guaranteed to happen. “The next thing” comes and crowds it out.

Who needs to carry an idea notebook?

If you ask “what if?” If you’re comfortable in your environment. If your mind wanders and smashes two or more ideas together unbidden, you’re probably someone who comes up with a lot of random ideas during the course of the day.


Ideas are here one moment, gone the next kind of like they’re riding a train into the ether.

Develop the idea jotting habit

You might be relatively young.

You might have the belief that you’re always going to have one idea after another, that you’ll always be creative.

Don’t. Unless you harness this, unless you make creativity a habit, you won’t.

Now an old saying points out that genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration, but that one percent is vital. You don’t get to sweat over making it happen if you don’t have the idea in the first place.

How many musicians, for example, write a lot of songs when they’re young, on in to their 20s and 30s and then stop as they get older?

Not all of them, by no means. But the ones who don’t have a habit of nurturing their creativity.

A collector for their ideas is vital.

Sure, you don’t have to go to your corner convenience store or Amazon to buy an idea notebook. You can use the back of an envelope or a piece of scratch paper.

While a lot of world-changing ideas have been captured on these scrap pieces of paper, they’re not as good as having a dedicated idea notebook. The notebook is superior because it’s more organized

If you have to have ideas for your writing, art, or anything; or if you just like to have ideas for your writing, art, or anything you do, you need a way to capture them.

A pocket notebook, idea notebook, idea journal or daydream journal − whatever you want to call it − can be that tool.

Our world is driven by new ideas; a way to prosper is to get out there and collect them.

If people with ideas during the day are prospectors, a pen and little notebook is the pan.

If you don’t have many of your own ideas, maybe you can piggyback off of somebody else’s. In that case, the idea notebook is useful for you too. Jot down other people’s good ideas when you see them. Such lists can also be made into to-do lists. Be sure to give the other person credit, however. It’s the right thing to do. By taking note of good ideas when you see them you’re more likely to have your own.

It’s a better feeling to have your own ideas, of course. The thrill of creating is sheer joy.

Use your wandering mind to its full advantage.

Idea notebooks and sleep

Having a place to write your ideas and to-do lists down can help you get better sleep too. It’s a way of convincing your churning mind that you’ll attend to what’s bothering you. Sometimes, it just takes a minute and then you’re done. You write it down and you can get to sleep.

Are there alternatives?

There are, but they’re not as good.

Forget about using scraps of paper. While recycling in this way is a judicious use of resources and better than nothing, it isn’t organized the way a notebook is. You’re less likely to lose ideas if you keep them in a centralized place. Also, too, it’s better to write on a thicker stack of paper the way a 60-page notebook is organized.

Get yourself a daydream journal, idea book, notebook, or whatever you want to call it. The color doesn’t really matter. Maybe if you put it down you’ll be able to find some colors better than others depending on the background. Maybe you naturally prefer some colors to others. When writing on the covers, sometimes inks of the most common colors can be read more easily..

Maybe you want to write your name on it. Maybe you want to put a title on it. However, you want to set it up doesn’t matter. Probably 90 percent of what’s important is that you have it handy. Keep it in your hip pocket, cargo pocket, purse or wherever is convenient for you. Get in the habit of keeping it around. You’re very likely to find it invaluable. While there’s no scientific way to prove it, just having it handy will probably increase your creativity by a good measure, maybe 50 percent. Without your little notebook, your ideas will come and go like flashes.

No, there’s no scientific study that can back this up. It’s merely common sense.

A paper idea notebook beats your phone

Well, it beats your phone for jotting down ideas, but not for making calls.

You can take notes on a phone, of course. Some people do. You can type into the memory. You can take verbal notes too, make recordings.

It’s still easier to handwrite them, however. It seems quicker. You’ll have an easier time going back and making notes over the notes you’ve made if you handwrite them.

Keep a pen that doesn’t leak handy. You also want one that doesn’t break easy. You’re going to be keeping it in your pocket so that’s absolutely mandatory.

It’s better to have a click pen than a non-click pen. The click pen slides smoothly in and out of your pocket.

Another good thing for a pen for an idea notebook is metal. You’ve going to have a better time of it if the pen offers some resiliency. If the pen breaks in your pocket, you not only lose the pen but you can, in some cases, lose a full day’s worth of ideas. There might be a million-dollar one in the batch. That could be a huge tragedy.

An incident like that might also affect your resolve to take note of the ideas that pop into your head.

That would be really bad. In that case, you’re talking about the ideas you might come up with for a number of days.

Does an idea notebook need to be paper?

No. You can use many different apps on your phone as a place to jot ideas down.

The problem is there are many other things you use your phone for. You’re likely to get distracted by all of the messages, apps, and other things you keep on there.

An idea notebook is, comparatively, distraction free.

Not only that, but like a paper dream journal, you can draw pictures and maps of your idea too. That’s impossible with other idea-recording systems.

Alternately, as with dreams, you can also record your ideas on an index card.

The basic idea notebook

The memo notebook from Mead pictured above measures five by three inches is great for many uses. It fits into many pockets perfectly. They make the spiral binding on the top or side.

The three-by-five is inexpensive too. I paid 50 cents for mine at a military exchange. If you’re going to be sliding it in and out of your pocket, you’re going to want one that’s wire bound on the side rather than wire bound on the top. The cover and inner pages bend more easily if the notebook is bound on the top.

If you find yourself in environments that are inhospitable to notebooks, consider carrying one that’s weatherproof.

You’ve got a lot of latitude as to what you could use. The easiest thing is to go ahead and use the one from the store. However, you may enjoy using a notebook with more style, one that’s truly individual.

Here’s one you could make from a beer carton.

Here’s another one from a cereal box.

Here are some others you can make as a craft project.

An upgrade to the basic idea notebook

If you’re confident and feeling like your ideas are going to be an upgrade to regular run-of-the-mill ideas you might want to house those ideas in a beautiful leather notebook. Great ideas deserve a great container.


Q: How to take your ideas down quickly and efficiently?

A: Consider adopting a problem-solving idea writing system

Brief ideas can be noted with a short line or a dot to note a new concept.

Problem. Intervention. Outcome.

If you’re struggling to address a problem, try framing your idea generation. A good way to do this is with the PIO Organizing System. 

Problem: Briefly describe the problem. Spend some time on this because writing it down increases your understanding of problem. Only by understanding it well can you hope to address it well.

Intervention. There is where you note what the idea is; what’s the solution to the problem? Don’t forget to spell out any potential drawbacks to your solution.

Outcome. What do you think the outcome is going to be? What was the outcome?

Entries can just feature problems where you address interventions later. They can just note observations with no problem.

If the thought appeals to you, it’s good to write it down. You never know when you might be able to use it.

Drawings are good too and one big reason why an idea notebook is a lot more powerful than a smartphone recorder or anything else someone might use to try to catch a golden idea.

More benefits of keeping a pocket notebook

You’ll be less likely to forget names and addresses. You’ll have a place to write them readily available.

You’ll be more likely to get the necessary tasks done.

You’ll have all of the information in one place.

You’ll have refreshers when it comes time to learn new concepts.

Writing dreams and other thoughts down helps you process the thought, grow, and move on.

If you’re not keeping one, try it out. If you’re not keeping a dream journal, try that out too while you’re at it.


Also on the blog:

Speak with your wallet and forget about it at bedtime

2 simple rules for what to eat before going to bed

How to wring more details out of a poorly remembered dream

Is it good to wear hats while sleeping?


James Cobb, RN, MSN, is an emergency department nurse and the founder of the Dream Recovery System. His goal is to provide his readers with simple, actionable ways to improve their health and maximize their quality of life. 

Some of the links on this page are affiliate links. What this means is that if you click the link and make a purchase, the DRS receives a small commission. Our thoughts and opinions remain our own. 


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