Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Save That Thought by Andy Scheer

I few weeks ago I wrote about ways to protect your computer files. But how do you preserve your ideas when you can't immediately enter them into electronic format?

Remember the Rich Mullins song “Awesome God”? The story goes that Mullins was driving when the song came to him. He pulled off the highway and searched his vehicle for something on which he could save that thought. Eventually Mullins found a pen and an empty French fry package.

Last week when Jennifer Hudson Taylor blogged about “A Digital Calendar Solution to Simplify Life,”  I hesitated to join the discussion. I depend on paper calendars. First, the kind I can slip into my jacket pocket (available at dollar stores for one dollar). Second, the scenic calendars provided by my credit union (free to account holders). And third, a “Dilbert” page-a-day calendar (a gift each Christmas from a family member).

While the first two calenders help me remember my conference commitments and project deadlines, the page-a-day tear-off calendar proves most useful. The front side is entertaining, but the back side is blank. I keep a stack of blank-side-up calendar pages and a pen or two on my nightstand—and another stack beside my work computer.

At the end of the day, I review my list, cross off what I've accomplished, and prepare a new list for the next day (and put the old list in my white paper recycling pile). No technology needed.

But that stack of blank pages proves even more useful after I turn out the lights and climb into bed. Over the years I've found that when I'm deeply involved in a writing or editing project, it's hard to turn off my brain at the end of the day.

Late one evening a week ago I checked my email and found a message from a client who has a great nonfiction project—but only an average title. He'd responded to my suggested title options with a half-dozen alternatives. That got my brain working—and working.

For a half-hour or more after I turned out the lights, sleep eluded me—but title options kept coming. Finally I got out of bed and took a blank calendar page and a pen to the bathroom counter under the nightlight. I wrote down three title and subtitle combinations. Then, secure in the knowledge that I wouldn't lose those ideas, I went back to bed and quickly fell asleep.

Last night it happened again. Before lights-out I took a fresh calendar page and wrote my next-day tasks. Writing this blog entry topped my list. I knew the general topic (it and two others are recorded on a blank calendar page taped to my office bookshelf). But after I turned out the lights, my brain began cycling through title options.

Finally I turned to my nightstand, found the stack of pages and a pen, and scribbled, “Save That Thought.”

“You must be writing something down,” my wife said.

“So I can go to sleep.”


Rick Barry said...

Something similar happened to me while I searched for a title for my current project. I ended up stashing a pen and blank pad of paper on my night stand, because my brain eventually generated 40 or 50 title ideas as I lay in bed over the course of a couple weeks. (Sometimes I wrote in the dark; you can imagine the scribbles I had to decipher the next morning!) In the end, I scratched out most of those ideas and saved my favorite four, which all came to me unexpectedly. It's amazing how our God-created brain can continue musing on a problem in the background even while we're doing something else--like trying to sleep! Thanks Andy.

Timothy Fish said...

Electronic calendars are great for some purposes, but often the paper calendar has them beat. We seem to be at that point where every problem requires an app and people are forgetting that the simple solution actually works. I usually keep information on a paper calendar because it is easier to use. I keep a notepad and pen next to my bed for when I don't want to forget something.

Terry Burns said...

The mark of a person obsessed with computers is one who spends 30 minutes doing something on one that could be done by hand in five minutes. But I don't use a paper calendar because it requires me to go look at it. Both my computer and phone will pop something up and make a noise to keep me from missing something or forgetting something. A paper calendar would just sit there and mock me when I noticed it after the fact.

Rachel Alkire said...

What's interesting to me is that I sometimes need to write (hand write) thoughts for me to fully process them. Sometimes seeing words on a screen do not seem as "real" as the ones I hand write. Most of my friends are digital, and so am I a lot of the time, but some messages seem much more personal in handwriting.

Jeanette Levellie said...

I wonder if we could analyze our personalities by what type of calendars we use, similar to analyzing a woman by what's in her purse?

I have a paper monthly planner on my desk at work and another on my dining table at home. A 2'x 3' white board in my home office serves as a reminder of big projects and their deadlines. Then I do the paper/pen thingie by the bed, on the bathroom counter, etc. Oh, and a bulletin board beside my desk at home with myriad notes and ideas. Plus a notepad in my purse.

Shall we go to Let's Make a Deal?

Diana said...

I think Jeanette should win something for the many ways she is capturing her thoughts. Any way she might be rewarded? A gold star perhaps?
Since I just acquired an iPhone last Friday, I am now syncing my google calender into my phone. It sends me reminders I ignore most of the time. But my Cube paper calender (Steeler) on my desk holds all of my important dates and phone appointments. I love peeling off yesterday and seeing the tasks for the day- esp. loving the days that are clear. I do have a whiteboard on my wish list. :-) In a pinch I can use it for games of Pictionary :-)

Kathryn Elliott said...

I’m a jotter. I jot down notes on just about everything. More than once my kids have come to me with grocery receipts, the backs scribbled in my illegible scrawl, and asked: “Mom, is this for your book, or real trash?” I keep an electronic calendar, but Post-It notes give me joy!

Cat Ray said...
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