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Capture That Idea - Before it Gets Away From You

By Neil Sawers

If you want to capture that idea that suddenly flashed into your mind, you must do it right away.

Here's a typical problem that you and I might face. I'm standing in front of airport security and from who knows where I get an idea to straighten out a chapter I'm writing. How am I going to capture that idea when the security attendant's signaling me to pass through the metal detector? I know. I'll write it down in the notebook with the pen I always carry with me. Then I realize that both pen and notebook, having metal parts, are blithely passing scrutiny in the plastic container now rolling through X-Ray. The people behind me are wondering what I'm doing and getting restless because their flight is already boarding and the gate's a mile away. Desperately I wonder if I should ask the attendant to remember the idea for me? And then the idea vanishes. It's too late.

Ideas are inopportune things. Timing means nothing to them. Or where. They crop up in the most unexpected places, and then, like fireflies and fairy dust, they vanish. And no amount of "thinking" will bring them back. Imagine: Somewhere on the planet there exists this huge depository of escaped ideas.

Where were you when that idea got away? In the dentist's chair waving frantically for the drilling to stop while you fished in a pocket for your notebook - and remembered it was in your purse or hung up with your jacket. You could have been in the car, at a supermarket checkout, on a walk, in the pool.

Somehow you have to try and capture that idea. If you can do it using a notebook or recorder, so much the better. But what if you don't have a notebook or recorder? You have to rely on memory alone - or maybe your partner's or a friend's memory. One thing you can do is make an association or link from that idea to something that will trigger the memory. For example, in my story, if I want to recall the idea that erosion is the reason a waterfall is receding, I could imagine myself standing on a bridge, my feet hooked to a bungee cord, then leaping off, bouncing against the waterfall, and dislodging an avalanche of rocks. The more visual and exaggerated the idea, the better the chance I have of remembering it. Now even though the idea's linked in memory, write it down as soon as you can. (If you want more great information on how to remember something, go to the Net or your local library and check out anything by Tony Buzan.)

A major reason we have to capture that idea so quickly is that it's competing for our attention with so many other things. For example, take going through airport security; did your jacket, lap top and bag come through? You had to remove your shoes - now where are they and where can you put them on again? What did you do with your boarding pass? What gate is the flight? These one hundred and one other thoughts blot the great idea out of your mind unless you're very careful. You must catch it in the moment.

Yes, I do carry a notebook around with me. I also try and qualify that idea. You see it may not be enough to just write down "erosion" or whatever shorthand one uses to recall an idea. I've gone back to my notebook a few times, seen that one word and wondered what I meant. To qualify the idea, I add what it pertains to - oh that chapter I was writing on why the waterfall was receding.

The other thing you need to do is transfer that idea from your notebook or other recorder to a safe place. Now when I say a safe place, I mean a place where you find it again. Too many times I've put an idea in a safe place, but do you think I could remember where that safe place was?

OK. Summary time. Here's what you need to do when capturing those ideas:

1. Record it: On paper, in a recorder, your lap top or cell phone, or use some link to memory
2. Qualify it: Don't just write down one word and then later on have no clue what it means or refers to
3. Transfer it: Remove it from your primary source and get it recorded somewhere safe where you can find it again.

Now if I can just remember to follow my own advice, maybe I'll capture that idea instead of having it vanish into that great planetary depository.


About the Author:

Neil Sawers develops books and e-books to help entrepreneurs, small business and students write more easily and effectively. Visit us at http://www.how-to-write-proposals.com and download our free chapter on The Discovery Process. It contains key tools to help you get your message across in the way you want, whether you're writing proposals, sales letters, reports, letters or other business communications.




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