Let’s talk tools #1: The Commonplace Book (a.k.a. Swipe Files)
Ideas are cheap.
Here, have a few:
- Carnivorous apes from the Monkey Way Galaxy.
- A world of dogs that keep various breeds of humans prized for arbitrary physical characteristics.
The idea is not what is important, it is what you do with the idea that matters.
But, that does not mean you don’t want to keep track of the good ones. Whether it is a scrap of dialogue, a name, an image, a place or even just a bunch of words that sound good together, all of these things can help add depth and texture to your writing and even give you a starting place when starting a new work.
To collect them, I use what I like to call a Commonplace Book (I have also heard them called Swipe Files). It is like a journal and scrapbook all in one. So, when I find an image on the web, or read an article that is interesting, or have a scrap of a story, I store it away in my Commonplace Book.
Now, since I am a denizen of the digital world (and have a notoriously bad handwriting), my Commonplace book is a digital one. I have two main locations I store my data in:
- Evernote. Evernote is a great service. It is a notebook that you can access from the web or application on you phone or computer. It supports images and text and has a nice web clipper extension that allows you to quickly grab sections of webpages. I mainly use it for multimedia content or content where formatting is important.
- A bunch of text files.I try to store all of my writing scraps and anything else text based in a text file inside a folder that I sync with Dropbox. Now, as much as I love Evernote and Dropbox and all the spiffy new web based tools, they will all fail. Either shutdown or change in some awful way that makes them unusable to me. But, a folder full of text files is portable and usable anywhere.
Next time, other ways I collect and consume my notes.