Writing Workflow Part 1: Collecting Your Ideas


Inspiration moves and she moves fast. If you don’t capture that idea down immediately, there are no guarantees she’ll wait for you. In fact, she rarely does. By the time you’re sitting down at your laptop with a mochaccino in one hand and a pen in the other, you’re left staring at a blank word document with a frazzled look on your face wondering where the f!$% it went. That’s just how inspiration works. As Elizabeth Gilbert says, “Inspiration doesn’t owe you anything.”

As creative storytellers, whether you’re an actor, writer, director or producer, it’s natural to get to a point where you want share your own unique story – a passion project. A script, whether it’s for a thirty-second video or a feature-length film, is the first step towards building some filmmaking real estate. It is both the blueprint, and the foundation on which the house is built. If you aren’t in a position to option a script or hire writers to build the foundation for you, odds are you’re gonna need a hammer, and possibly a working version of Final Draft.

I recently started deconstructing my own writing workflow, influenced by two books – “Getting Things Done”, and “The Power of Habit” – in an effort to write in a more joyful, creative, and streamlined manner because whatever I was doing wasn’t freakin’ working anymore! The first step of GTD “Collect” translated from productivity to writing for me as the practice of collecting all of your ideas by writing them down immediately. But how could I make this practice into a habit?

I experimented with brainstorming session, either for a set amount of time or a set word count, but the habit didn’t really click until I stumbled upon the practice of brainstorming “10 Ideas a Day”. Why 10 ideas? Just as writing 750 words or 3 pages a day are the target counts for the “Morning Pages” practice found in the seminal creativity book, ”The Artist Way”, it seems that 10 ideas are enough of a stretch to really get your brain into maximum idea generation mode.

Here are some lessons I’m currently learning while in the process of making this practice into a habit:

  1. Give Yourself Permission to be Bad

You have to churn through some bad ideas to get to the good stuff. As a recovering perfectionist, this was especially challenging for me, but perfectionism has no business being involved in creativity – all it does is suffocate your work. Remember that these ideas are not for public consumption. The more ideas you write down, the better your odds are of hitting something worthwhile. And with more options, you can make even better decisions of which ideas to follow through with and “greenlight”, and which ideas to “pass” (more on that in the next blog post about the second writing phase, “Processing”)!

  1. Early Birds Do Get the Worm

By writing down 10 ideas every morning, you are watering the seeds of inspiration that will only continue to grow throughout the day. When it comes to both Morning Pages and 10 Ideas a Day, doing it first thing in the morning when your brain is in a semi-sleepy state is best. It also makes you even more receptive to new ideas throughout the day because your brain has already been set to look for out for new ideas in the first place.

  1. Set Up Your Containers

For those random pops of ideas throughout the day, notice when and where they occur most often, and set up a preferred method on how to collect them. Luckily, we are all unusually close to our cell phones at any given moment, so having an app where you can quickly jot things down is a must. I use the “Notes” app on my iPhone because it’s quick, and super simple. I always get ideas while I’m walking or hiking, so I bring my phone with me to quickly take note of them. If I’m driving and I can’t pull over to type it out, I use the “Voice Memos” on my phone and dictate the message. And for those of us who get their best ideas while in the shower, Aqua Notes is a real thing – or you can let your inner-child run wild with some washable bathtub crayons instead!

  1. Compile Your Ideas Into One Place

At the end of the day, you want to get all of Notes, and Voice Memo transcriptions, and semi-legible napkin writing into one consolidated place where you can process and review your ideas. I use Day One for both my Morning Pages and my 10 Ideas a Day writing – I simply create a tag for each of the different style journals I write in to separate them. Some other options include creating a notebook in Evernote titled “10 Ideas a Day” to e-mail and compile your ideas into, or making a project file in Scrivener solely dedicated to your 10 Ideas. You could even create a paper-based index card system and write 10 index cards a day. Whatever system feels the most natural is the best system for you!

Next time, I’ll delve deep into the second writing phase, “Processing”, so check back in the upcoming weeks for Part 2 of Writing Workflow.