The other day Len Sweet noted, “In the span of 18 months (1665-66), Isaac Newton invented calculus, constructed a theory of optics, explained how gravity works and discovered his law of motion.”
You gotta clear away a lot of life to find a creative signal that strong. Unfortunately most of us have other things to do, too. I don’t know about Newton, but in between my creative moments I have to match socks and stuff. How do you keep the creative juices flowing in the everyday?
Creativity isn’t sui generis pixie dust that falls from the ether on a lucky few. A lot of us have ideas. This isn’t always the problem. Creativity is largely about learning to clear life away.
I am working on my tenth book. It has been brewing for about three years, and recently has gathered steam. As the ideas have begun to make sense I have noticed the benefit of a new set of tools I am using to enhance my creative process. These tools allow me to capture my constant mental hum and are increasing my creative output, exponentially. It fact it makes me sad for the lost creative ideas that might have made previous works better.
Here are my new favorite tools.
1. Google Reader
This RSS service gathers all of my favorite sources of online inspiration, including sites from church leaders, creatives, communicators, digerati, and so on. iPad even presents them in a cool magazine layout through the Flipboard app. It’s a great way for me to start my idea day.
2. Moleskine Journal
A little over a year ago I began carrying around a Moleskine journal. Some people thought I was losing my digital edge. I had to train myself to carry it and use it, but the benefit quickly made the effort worth it. I put everything in it, including reflections on books and magazines I’m reading, personal entries, what I call the “big ideas,” sermon notes, and so on. It used to be that I would have an idea and congratulate myself on it while it floated away like a lost balloon. Now I capture them all, good and bad alike. I remember how Digital Storytellers originally existed on a huge pile of post-its and ripped paper scraps and napkins. How much better to capture everything to a single location.
3. Voice Memo for the iPhone
Some of my best creative time happens in the afternoon commute. As I process the day, often a new thought comes to mind. Many of my major career decisions, including my imminent move to Peachtree Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, happened as a result of creative epiphanies while driving. Whereas previously these thoughts were often lost, Voice Memo allows me to capture them in rough form. The app syncs my recordings in iTunes for me to annotate later.
This cloud-based collector is where my thoughts go for organization. The “cloud” part means every time I update a file, all of my devices automatically receive the update. Evernote holds text, audio, website links, and images. After filling a couple of journals I moved in. I didn’t transcribe everything, though; rather, I took images of my journal pages and uploaded them. Here is where the book really began to take off, because as I created folders for like-minded ideas, I began to see patterns in seemingly random musings.
You can write directly in Evernote but it’s a little limited, like writing in a simple text editor, so it’s better suited for first thoughts.
5. Pages with iCloud
Pages is Apple’s word processor, and one of its best features is iCloud synchronization, like Evernote has. As I move into the next phase in the writing process, turning fragments into chapters, I can work on the same document from a variety of locations, including my laptop, my iPad, my iPhone, and a web browser. This encourages multiple reads and edits, so my chapters are a lot more vetted now.
These tools help clear away the interruptions of life and allow me to focus my creative energy. They work for me in writing but can work for anyone who has to develop an idea. What are your favorite tools?