Designing Better Libraries logo

Main menu:

Recent Posts

Recent Comments






Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
Designing Better Libraries by steven j bell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Capturing Your Creative Ideas

You often find writers using a quote to start off a book chapter or an article. Most times those quotes are like background noise. It’s there but you don’t notice it. But every now and then it grabs your attention. That’s what got me to take a look at this UXmatters article titled “a practical guide to capturing creativity“. It began with a good quote from Linus Pauling that I’d never come across before: The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas. Make sense. Librarians are creative folks. I don’t doubt we all have many ideas. The problem is capturing them and then developing the one that has the most potential.

The main problem, according to author Jonathan Follett, is that creative ideas jump into our minds when we are least ready to capture them. He writes:

When the creative moment strikes, we need to be ready for it with ways to save, preserve, and ultimately use our invaluable ideas, notes, and sketches, so they can contribute to the success of great digital products. Such ideas don’t always come to us in the office environment. I find, generally, that there are far too many distractions in my own studio. In our over-stimulated modern world, with thousands of messages competing for our attention and bandwidth, it’s no wonder creative professionals require time away from their desks and computers to generate new ideas.

The often cited example is the shower idea. There is a well recognized phenomenon that people tend to get ideas or creative bursts of genius in the shower. Why is that? No one knows for sure but one suggestion is that the brain needs to be free of the constant ongoing details that flood each moment. But when the mind is unchained from all those details it can pull together the many disparate puzzle pieces that go into a creative idea. The shower seems to be a particularly good place for that to happen. Follett’s focus is on how you go about capturing the idea when it comes, as it so often will disappear if allowed to drift off. You know how it works. You say to yourself “that’s a great idea and I’ll make a note of it after breakfast”. Then after breakfast you are asking yourself what that idea was you had in the shower. Don’t let it happen to you.

So what do you do? You’ll find some good ideas in this article. Follett’s advice is to keep it simple. He emphasizes the use of easily carried notebooks for jotting down ideas. He has a preference for the Moleskine notebook. I carry a Daytimer and keep it stocked with plenty of notepaper at all times. Even though I carry a smartphone I just find it easier to jot down ideas on paper with pencil – and it’s easier to sketch an idea, another reason Follett likes notebooks. What about the shower? Follett shares information about a notebook and pen designed for writing in the wettest conditions. Try using your smartphone in the shower.

Follett doesn’t ignore higher tech methods for capturing ideas. Voice recorders are an obvious device for this task. I’ve experimented a bit with the voice recorder on my smartphone. It works well enough. The problem is that I forget to use it, and there are times when I wouldn’t want to – such as when I get an idea on the commuter train. You could acquire a specialized voice recorder if that’s your preference. He even mentions using Google Voice to record ideas from a cell phone. Why not just leave a message with your idea on your work voicemail? The advantage of Google Voice is that it transcribes the message so you have a written version, but Follett found that it didn’t always work that well. Still, you may want to experiment with Voice. And if voicemail isn’t high-tech enough for you, consider using a hand held video camera to record yourself describing your creative ideas.

Are librarians creative professionals? It’s certainly not a characteristic associated with the traditional stereotype. How much creativity does shushing people and stamping book cards require? But we know that librarians are indeed a creative bunch. Need examples? Consider the spring 2008 issue of Urban Library Journal that profiled creative librarians and their creative library projects and approaches to service. Capturing one’s creative ideas is a good start, and a good way to make sure that we all have lots of ideas on hand. After all, that does seem like the best way to discover that one really good idea that could make a difference.


Pingback from Library Voice » Unplugging while plugging along
Posted: January 14, 2010 at 1:48 pm

[…] challenges or ideas for new blog posts or essays – or they come in the post-workout shower – which is actually a fairly common phenomena. Studies have found that when we free our minds from any complex thought activity, some of our best […]

Pingback from Designing Better Libraries » Idea Lab In The Library
Posted: June 15, 2010 at 1:54 pm

[…] I doubt there is any library that has already created an idea lab for its staff. If I’m wrong about that and your library has put together something along the lines of the Stanford d. school Idea Lab, please let me know. Since we have few models for how it might work in a library, I’m taking a shot at it here with a sketch of what it could look like. Possible Layout of a Library Idea Lab I imagine it having walls/panels that are transparent and could double as space for drawings, notes, ideas, etc. that could be shared and commented on by others. It is easily accessible to the user community; it reduces or eliminates barriers between the librarian and the user – and should promote open innovation with the public. The core of the lab space is a hub that features collaborative furniture where librarians can interact with members of the user community. I’ve been in many libraries where the librarians are tucked away in offices spread throughout the building. A more communal space such as this one where the offices circle the collaborative hub could lead to more group problem sharing and solving – and then more innovation. A variety of technology devices/gadgets could be easily accessible to the staff in the idea lab and it facilitates experimentation. A wall-mounted panel display could serve as a space for presentations, demonstrations and even for librarians to share electronic messages. Maybe there are even some toys and games for visitors to play with – or for the staff whenever they might need a diversion (some of you best thinking comes when you are thinking about something else or nothing at all). […]

Pingback from Designing Better Libraries » You Know How To Capture Your Good Ideas But How Do You Get Others To Support Them
Posted: November 2, 2010 at 1:26 pm

[…] ideas when they come – chances are you are already improving at coming up with good ideas and capturing them as well. But just coming up with good ideas isn’t enough. How do you get others – mostly your […]

Write a comment