Over the years, I’ve tried–and discarded–several ways of capturing writing ideas. A notebook and pen? Oh, I tried, but always lose (or forget to carry) them. I’ve let a lot of good ideas (and notebooks) slip away.
And since I’m easily distracted by technology, an endless succession of tools clutters up my (real and virtual) desktop. Before long, creativity grinds to a halt. Nothing “sticks” for long.
Yet despite my nerdiness, what I care about most in my personal habits is simplicity–finding ways to strip life down to essentials that work. But simplicity has always been elusive in my writing life, and I’ve never made good use of technology for capturing ideas–until now, thanks to mobile technology and a lot of trial and error.
Right now, I have a desktop computer, an iPad, and an iPhone. When away from my desk, I normally have the iPhone or iPad (or both) with me. I do most long-form writing and composing at my desk, but tend to capture notes, ideas, scraps of dialogue, etc. while on the move. So, my solution looks like this:
It’s the simplest, “set it and forget it” setup I’ve ever had. Now, I actually write things down. Ideas get to germinate, and they’re at my fingertips wherever I am.
When I’m at my desk, I can see everything I’ve captured. I often cut-and-paste ideas from nvALT to Scrivener or WordPress–and vice-versa, if there’s an idea I want to develop or ponder while wandering around. I even use it to work with HTML (using Markdown).
Dropbox stores my notes in a central location and syncs them in real-time–if I enter a new note or update an existing one, it’s immediately reflected on all three devices.
Both Notesy and nvALT have built-in support for Dropbox, so I set up the connection with a few clicks. Notesy is $4.99, but nvALT and Dropbox are free.
nvALT is easy to use. You don’t even have to save what you write–it’s done automatically, while you type. Notesy has a more familiar, file-centric interface, and displays your files and folders as they appear on Dropbox.
This is an Apple-centric setup, though Dropbox works with Windows and Linux. If you’re using a PC, you might try ResophNotes on the desktop–it syncs automatically with the excellent Simplenote app on mobile devices. Both ResophNotes and Simplenote are free, and Simplenote offers Dropbox integration for a nominal yearly fee.
How do you capture your writing ideas?