Capturing Elusive Ideas

Ideas have a way of escaping us when we need them the most. So the obvious thing to do is to capture them as they arrive. We should all form the habit of carrying some sort of capture tool.

My Granddaddy always carried a camera in his car. It stayed under the seat, along with a flashlight and a can of flat tire fixer. It was one of those slim, black cameras with an embroidered strap and took film cartridges. He liked to paint watercolors of barns, farms, chickens, and other rural scenes. He built up his own library of images to composite together in his paintings with these photos, with everything meticulously categorized in his file cabinet.

Why did he do this? It wasn’t until a few years ago that I came to appreciate this: opportunity exists at every turn, and inspiration is everywhere. You never know what interesting thing you will see around the corner. Every creative person should carry some sort of capture tool at all times, whether it’s a fancy camera or a small sketchpad. Writers should always carry at least a slip of paper so they can jot down the words and sentences they overhear.

Today I follow Granddaddy’s footsteps by carrying a camera in my own car — a digital SLR that lives in the front seat console. If I don’t have that with me, I have a sketchbook of some sort (currently a Moleskine reporter notebook). At the very least, I’ll carry some 3 x 5 index cards for doodling ideas or jotting down words or making lists. And I’m never without some sort of pen or pencil.

What do you use to capture your ideas? Share in the comments section below.