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“The world is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.” —Bertrand Russell

There are no rules as to when you are allowed to be inspired. There are no rules as to what is allowed to inspire you. Inspiration can strike at any time. And you need to be ready.

I can be inspired by something I read off the back of a cereal box. Or driven by something I dreamed. I can gather descriptions from the way someone dresses or scrunches their nose.

But the problem is, we are carried continuously forward in time by the next thing on our “to-do” list. How do we catch these moments and save them before they’re forgotten?

Make A Swipe File

In the marketing industry, swipe file refers to sales text or templates that can be re-used either directly or as inspiration.

Every good artist has a swipe file, even if they don’t know it. While you may not be keeping marketing emails, all the little scribbles you’ve saved are a disorganized type of swipe file.

My sister-in-law, who is also a writer, keeps a full-sized notebook with her. At any time she can write down pieces of a conversation she overhears or physical descriptions she finds interesting.

All of her ideas are in one place. The downside is having to carry them around.

If you’re like me, you have lists and notes scattered throughout your house. And in your purse. Or on your bedside table. (The moment right before you fall asleep is prime time for brilliance.)

But notes can get lost pretty easily. I’m not saying that’s ever happened….

And sometimes, when you’re standing in the grocery store line, all you can find to write on is a gum wrapper. Not the easiest surface on which to transfer ink….

So is there a better solution than writing?

Why I Like Google Keep

There was a time when I would have said no. I tried note-keeping apps and programs, but they never felt natural enough.

If I have to log in, sort, file, or do anything that involves more than two steps, the task has just become infinitely more difficult than taking analog action.

For me to use a digital product, it needs to be as quick and straightforward as snatching up a pen and old envelope.

Google Keep meets my criteria for being user-friendly.

Since it’s an app, it has a size advantage over notebooks. The fact that the notes are on my phone means I can’t drop them in a parking lot. Because they are typed, I can always read them. Though I may not always remember what my cryptic sentences mean.

But the best part about Google Keep (for me) is that it’s accessible in just a couple of taps. I tap the app; I tap the note I want to add to, then I just type or take a picture.

Filling Your Idea Bucket

Whether or not you choose to use an app or remain old-school with your paper and pen, the important thing is that you continue to fill your idea bucket.

“Idea bucket” is a term used by writer Jeff Goins. He says that the way he avoids running out of things to write about is by keeping his idea bucket full. In one of his videos he mentions getting ideas while out walking his dogs, or doing things around the city.

He then writes down these ideas in his idea bucket, which is essentially his swipe file for writing inspiration. His idea bucket is always full, and he never has trouble planning his editorial calendar.

Clear Communication Takeaway

If you find yourself suffering from writer’s block, or you struggle with how to write dialogue and descriptions, you may need a fuller swipe file.

There’s nothing new under the sun. Drawing from experience doesn’t make you unoriginal. It makes you smart. A good writer takes the inspiring things they encounter and then improves upon them.

Start collecting ideas. Save them in whatever way works for you. Instead of suffering from writer’s block, you may find yourself with a new problem. Which idea should you work on first?

Want to discover the best writing advice with me? Get my weekly article in your inbox each Wednesday by signing up here. Check out my writing courses here. And follow me on Facebook and Instagram as Annie Beth Donahue and Twitter @anniebdonahue.


Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash


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