Why I Don’t Write Down My Ideas

I read another one of “those” articles, today. The kind that talks about how to choose which idea you want to use for your next novel. You know the ones–keep a notebook with you all the time. Write down your ideas. Later on, when you have time, or energy, or when you want to go spelunking for ideas…


I don’t want to go spelunking for ideas. Occasionally, I do, but in general, just for short stories. Maybe a blog post, or two.

When I’m looking for a book idea… I’m not looking for the kind of idea I’ll forget in a day or two, if I don’t write it down.

I’m looking for the one that keeps gnawing at me all day… The one I still remember the next morning. The one that other ideas wrap themselves around.

I won’t find that kind of idea in the long list of things I thunk up and wrote down, and would have forgotten entirely without a pen and paper.


  1. Reply

    Too right. The only things I write down are snippets of scenes and dialogue which, later, without such record, I would only remember vague impressions of.

    If we’re talking about the Big ideas, the plot ideas, the major twists, important things about important characters… if they don’t stick in my head, why would they stick in a reader’s?

  2. Reply

    I write things down, usually title ideas but sometimes plot/character points. I kept getting interrupted by Other Cool Ideas while trying to finish my first novel. A mentor advised stopping just long enough to jot these flashes down and then getting back to work.

    That said, not all these sparks of inspiration lead to new scenes or stories. Most are throwaways. Stephen King advises not to bother writing down ideas, but instead focus on those you can’t stop thinking about. There’s truth to that, but I’m so flighty that I can’t settle down unless my brain is satisfied its little flashes of *genius* are being properly acknowledged. (Even if they’ll never be utilized.)

  3. Reply

    I write down ideas because the act itself makes me come up with more ideas, and some of those induced ideas are ones that gnaw at me and won’t let go. Maybe I’d still get them if I didn’t write down my other ideas, but I’m not sure I want to risk it. 🙂

  4. Reply

    Yes! I’ve written about this before. If the idea is really worth writing, it will still be in my head the next day. And the next. And all the days after that.

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