106 – Sticky ideas & commonplace books


Hello and welcome to the The Spark & The Art creativity podcast. Thank you for subscribing to our weekly podcast, where we alternate between interviews with creative folks from all different career levels and insight and inspiration episodes. All with the intention you’ll get what you need to get your creative projects started and, more importantly, finished.

I’m your host Tucker and this week we're going to talk about sticky ideas and commonplace books. 

In last week's episode I talked with author and Professor David Burkus. His book The Myths Of Creativity is on my top recommended books list. 

In it I make a usual lament about having too many ideas and not knowing what to do with them. He talks a out how some ideas will come and go but some will stick with you. It reminded me of the conversation I had with author Sean Williams In episode 62 about how getting ideas out was like a tube of toothpaste where it's easier to get out when the dry crusty bits are gone from the end and you can get that flow back. It wasn't a really good analogy then and I think I've done it even less justice this time around. The point is that if you hold on to too many ideas up front it keeps other ideas from coming easily and all you can see are the clingy ideas on the tip of the tube. I'm gonna beat this analogy into a gross little puddle.

That doesn't mean these sticky ideas are bad. Most times when an idea is bouncing around for a time it means there is something in it that intrigues you. Something in it has your brain puzzling it over. It may mean that it's going to be a nice satisfying thing to do. Or it could just be that it's stuck at a certain size because you haven't given it the amount of attention it needs to get beyond it's current sticky point. 

David asked if I used a software like Evernote or a 'commonplace book' to keep my ideas and I said I used Evernote. I'm using it right this second as I write this episode on the train to work. We're passing through the Victoria Park - Stampede Station as I type this sentence. But I'd never heard the term Commonplace Book before. It's such a perfect name though that I knew instantly what it was. I use a common place book for all my recipes. If I find a recipe online I really like i write it in my commonplace recipe book. i have ice cream, chicken dry-rub, a banana dessert my daughter made up, bread,sauces,  pancakes, dumplings and more. (If you have an ice cream maker and would like a recipe for the best cheesecake ice cream in the world email me and I'll send you a photo from my book.)

That's great for recipes but what about my other ideas? I have a lot if songs written and the first commonplace for this writing was a couple notebooks. These notebooks and printouts were then stored in the ugliest carry-on sized suitcase in the world. No really it's like Emilio Pucci tried to draw Jerry Garcia's aura with a box of half-melted crayons. Ug. Lee.  Anyway at some point I started recording songs on a four-track cassette recorder. Then I eventually started to keep digital copies of my songs in Word documents. These I'd print out and draw the chord shapes above the lyrics because I didn’t (still don’t actually) know enough musical theory to write down the name of the chord. These print outs also went in the ugly suitcase. Then story and short film ideas went in a software I can't really access anymore. I have projects ideas in Trello, a productivity software, as well as Evernote. I have guitar riffs recorded in video on my iPhone and song ideas in the audio recorder on my iPhone too. Some are also in folders in dropbox and Google drive. Oh man. I just remembered I put stuff in google docs too. 

So I've decided I need to create a commonplace for all my  ideas where they can all live and be accessible and I know where they are. Evernote seems like a good place for this but I may want to check out a couple other options.

This way when an idea is getting too sticky I'll have one place to drop it off and know where to access it again when I want to add to it again to help it either get unsticky and make room for other ideas to come forth. Or better yet the idea can get fleshed out enough to move from spark into work and eventually some kind of art. 

Do you use a commonplace book? Do you have a piece of software that you use for consolidating ideas and concepts? If so I'd love to hear some recommendations. 

Or are you more like me with ideas spread all over the place. Let me know on twitter @sparkartpodcast or better yet you can drop it in the iTunes review box. Follow thesparkandtheart.com/iTunes will take you directly there and it will help the show more than you can imagine. 

And if you want to share this episode with friend whom you want to like you more than they already do you can send the short url TheSparkAndTheArt.com/106

Thanks for listening and remember: you won’t get the art without the work and you won’t do the work without the spark.