Diversion – organising my ideas

A couple of years ago, I realised that it would be necessary to keep a notebook about my person at all times, in order to jot down ideas when they come to me.  Being me, of course it is always on the days I have failed to throw a notebook in my bag that I need to make notes.  But that’s okay, because there are always scraps of paper to hand, and often whole sheets (which I can then fold down to mini-zine format).  Excellent.

I’ve never been a sketchbook person, because I don’t consider myself an artist, but of late, I’ve realised that sketching quick diagrams to accompany words is actually quite handy; and it really doesn’t matter if the sketches are not those of a talented fine artist.  If they convey the point I’m trying to put across, that’s good enough.  So now the multitudinous notebooks of my life have been joined by a smaller host of pocket sketchbooks (okay, notebooks with blank pages).

As I work at my laptop every morning, I always have my to-do list notebook by my side – which in addition to my long lists frequently finds itself home to numerous scribbled asides and diagrams because it is handier than either notebook, or sketchbook (which I could obviously go and fetch but simply don’t).

You can see from this haphazard summary that I am less than organised  when it comes to organising my ideas.  When it comes to getting a particular idea off the ground, I can always visualise in which notebook or on which scrap of paper I made my notes, but then I have to waste time remembering where I have currently stowed those particular pieces of paper, waste further time digging it/them out, then work surrounded by open notebook/s and/or scraps of paper, while I collate my notes for that particular idea.

So it occurred to me that what I need is a larger sketchbook (scrapbook?) in which I can pull together all the scrappy notes into something slightly more coherent.  Somewhere that I can literally cut and paste torn out pages from smaller notebooks or loose scraps or pictures I’ve found in a magazine.  Then add some extra notes, of course.

Okay, that makes sense: a larger sketchbook.  Not something I would carry around with me, I’m clear on that; because I’m lazy, and a pocket notebook is the largest extra weight I’m willing to carry on a regular basis.  It would be unwieldy, too, and not very practical to whip out for notes-on-the-go.  But how would pasting all my notes into one larger sketchbook work?  Because my ideas rarely come in a coherent flow, and are frequently jumbled up with ideas for different projects from day to day (or hour to hour).  If I pasted them all into one large sketchbook as the ideas came, it would be equally difficult to collate related thoughts when the time came – flipping backwards and forwards through the pages to find the relevant bits.  So, a series of sketchbooks, one for each different idea?  This could get complicated.  And expensive.

My next thought was a ring binder.  Just hole-punch the pages, add in plastic pockets to hold cuttings etc, and easily switch around the pages to re-organise thoughts, and keep notes for individual ideas together.  Problem is, I just don’t like ring binders.  Those rings always get in the way.  And everything looks scrappy very quickly unless you keep everything in those plastic pockets; but then everything is visible but inaccessible.  Hmm.

Bingo!  Well, maybe.  How about an index card system?  I’d only ever seen standard 3″ x 5″ index cards before, but I just noticed that my local office supply shop sells 8″ x 5″ index cards (and holder boxes) that would be perfect for organising ideas.  Cards are sturdier than paper, so would be less inclined to get scrappy (so quickly) and are easily shuffled back and forth, organised and re-organised according to whatever whim I am currently working on.  I’m liking this idea.  Hey, I’m liking this idea even better:

  • a shoebox
  • plus cut-up cereal box index cards
  • plus all those blank postcards I have in my stash that I have never found a use for as file cards (write/paste on the blank side, obviously)
  • equals cool handmade index card system!

Or, I could go the whole hog and just use an actual filing cabinet with a separate file for each idea.  Wow.  That sounds a bit scarily organised.  I think the shoebox is a bit more me…

Of course, realistically (because like I said above, I really am lazy), I would still never get around to actually filing my ideas until the point at which I wanted to turn the idea into something.  But I would have spent some happy hours preparing the filing system.  And I would have a better way of keeping the ideas organised while I was working on them.

And of course, the only reason I am thinking about this now is because I have forbidden myself from new projects until after the house-move so I am obviously twitchy to be doing something creative rather than practical.  Must distract self from distraction…

(Will update on Friends & Faux project soon – please accept my apologies for continued delay, I’ll get there shortly, I promise!)

11 thoughts on “Diversion – organising my ideas”

  1. yeah. i like the idea of folders – even if you dont go with a filing cabinet. or, some accordion like folders so the sides are closed – one for each project and then a place/box to put them in with a seeable label. yeah, moves are a challenge – have fun in the new space.

  2. I have to confess I’m the folder-organized type. But it’s easier, and not as scary, as you think. My 2-drawer filing cabinets are the base for my hollow-core desk laid across the top. So they are dual duty. I’ve got folders for everything that’s relevant to how I think and create: color, shapes, patterns, etc. I rip stuff out of magazines, write things on scraps, have spiral notebooks that have no organization to them – all this stuff gets ripped up and put, eventually, in the folders. Then when I want some inspiration or to hone an idea, I take out one or more of the folders, pick the pieces that I want to mull over, and use those to bring my ideas together…and to fruition. It really works for me and I love the process. …but that cereal box card idea is verrry intriguing :). hope the move is going well!

    1. Yeah, that pretty much sounds like the way I work. I’m not entirely against the filing cabinet idea, but the shoebox index card would be a lot cheaper to set up. Maybe as a prototype for when I can afford to move onto a bigger and better filing system… 🙂

      I can’t wait to be installed in the new house; the office/studio set-up there will be a lot more practical than I’ve been able to manage in the current house. And I’m actually planning to unpack properly this time, so I might even be able to find things when I need them! Well, maybe… 😉

  3. It’s somewhat comforting to hear one’s own thoughts coming out of someone else’s writing! I have notebooks in the car because I often get thoughts while driving, and write them down as soon as I park.

      1. You are not alone at all! I was going to say the same as Brook – it’s like reading my own head. I do the large notebook thing! 🙂 For the record, flipping pages back and forth is no big deal. I have all sorts of bits and bobs glued and taped into a large sketchbook. It often happens that the large pages hold lots of little bits on the same idea, so they all fit. But even when they are jumbled, this is okay because then they sorta cross-pollinate into new or better ideas. 🙂 It’s seriously helped me a ton. I’m in the process of doing the same with my writing. Oh, I’ve also gotten rid of tons of bits of paper just by snapping photos of them on my camera. 🙂

  4. You are just too funny – you and Wrick too. Both of you should meet my friend Pengrafx. Well, you already know her virtually, maybe, but I mean in person. Her studio actually HAS the accordian filing system that you describe and I am very envious of it. She has all her projects organized alphabetically using the colour coded stickers like they use in doctor’s offices. I want someone to come and do that with my studio. She also has a fabulous collection of annual notebooks/journals where she keeps all the thoughts that pop into her head.

    1. You know, I honestly used to be organised enough to live like that; I’ve just become more haphazard as I got older. On the other hand, the ideas just tumble about these days, whereas before, I would have taken great delight in creating the system but then not have anything to file in it (I didn’t have all the little notebooks or scraps of paper back then, either)… I promise I will be more organised at the new house, though – we’re determined to stay put a bit longer this time, so it seems (potentially) more worthwhile to put the effort in. 🙂

      1. bwahahahaha and aloha on both of you, Misti Ko and tanglecrafts… with a name like TangleCrafts how can you possibly entertain the idea of being as organized as a doctors office? sheesh. priorities, priorities.

        i like the tumbling out of ideas over orderly emptiness… okay, okay, there is a great benefit to organization too. it’s just very hard for me to keep my work space looking that way when i get such great results… okay, results i like, working in the way i do…

        if my studio were organized on par with the science of scientific logistics, i’d be afraid to move anything for fear i’d get it out of place or worse yet miss-replace it. then i’d never, ever, forever find it again…

        …and just so you know… i posted this blog entry:


        on Jan. 28 – 3 days before i read yours. so you know my studio is an effective hurricane-path look-a-like

        i like Elizabeth’s procedure to photograph bits of paper. that makes a lot of sense. i’ve been collecting bits of a lot of stuff recently to work into some of my digital collage works – and thinking the bits may well end up in hard paper mixed media works as well. fun.

        btw – i do like that mixing process too – one idea juxtaposed and encroaching on another… shaloopazam wow – cool ideas emerge… way fun.

        yeah, and good luck on that complete unpacking and putting away process… ha. i know, i know. sometimes i think i’ll get it done too. …it just comes undone as fast as i do it. that’s all. fun at least to try tho… for a day or so. bwahahahahahaha.

        yeah. it’s late. time to sleep. have fun. aloha.

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