Writing Tip: How to Remember What You Want to Write
A discussion for writers about the creative process of writing in your head and how to remember it to use later.
There are two parts to this discussion. Both are related to being more productive with your writing.
- In the first section I discuss how to make better use of thoughts that come up when you don’t have the opportunity to type or write your thoughts as they occur.
- The second section focuses on productively using your creative thoughts when you can't sleep.
How often do you plan an article in your head and hope to remember it later when you can type it into your computer?
Sometimes I have an idea for an article and I find myself planning the entire thing, word for word, in my mind. I call that a Brain Draft, but I need to get that into the computer.
When I finally sit down to write, sometimes I can't remember the best of what came up in my mind the first time. Sometimes it's better, but other times I lose precious thoughts that don't come to me a second time around.
It happens, and you probably do it too. Don't you? You can’t type it up at the moment, but an idea is forming in your head, and you even compose the words and sentences in your mind.
When this happens to me, I sometimes catch myself and ask, “What am I doing? Do I actually believe I’m going to be able to type up the same text word for word when I finally do sit down at my computer?”
Remembering Ideas for Articles You Want to Write
A Brain Draft
When I think of something I want to write an article about, remembering later what I wanted to write isn’t easy.
I know it’s going to come out differently when I finally get around to typing it, compared to when I first thought the words and sentences in my mind.
So when I realize I’m composing an article in my head, I want to stop myself because I feel I’ll just lose the memory of my “brain draft” anyway.
When I compose a brain draft, I really like what I come up with. That’s why I do it when the thoughts strike me.
I’m not going to force myself to not think about it just because I’m not near my computer. But I also try not to compose every detail of the actual text since I know there is no way I’ll repeat it the same way later.
Too bad I can’t just download that text from my brain draft to my computer. Imagine if someday in the distant future that becomes possible!
Anyway, I know I’m going to have to reconstruct the entire thing all over again at my computer and I’m afraid all the good stuff is going to come out differently. Is this a bad thing? Maybe it ends up being even better.
What is a Brain Draft?
All writers start with creative thinking. When you find yourself stuck with writer's block, what's really happening is that you are stuck with thinking. When that energy starts to flow in your mind and you find yourself composing an article, essay, or whatever -- the flow continues without effort.
The problem is that we may not be ready when that creative thinking energy starts to happen, and we find ourselves composing in our heads, as a brain draft.
I believe brain drafts are common for writers who always are thinking of things to write about. We might do it when we are driving, or traveling on a train or plane. It may even happen while getting a haircut.
Maybe the barber is chatting with you and you’re not free to think in your own mind because of the conversation. However, if you are left free to dwell in your own concentration, your creative juices might be flowing and a brain draft is created.
Getting Maximum Productivity From a Brain Draft
When I find myself composing a brain draft, I try not to get too involved in the actual sentences of my article. If I let myself go, I can really get into this, knowing full well that I will never remember the actual text as I composed it in my head.
Therefore I avoid using fully involved sentences. I just think in terms of the points I want to make. Then I know I can always elaborate on those points later when I’m actually typing up my article.
I find that I shouldn’t wait too long. I may forget the major part of the idea behind my article. I may not get a chance to get to my computer the same day, but the sooner the better.
Then when I am in front of the keyboard, I start by typing up short sentences to bring back the ideas I came up with. These sentences may turn out to be the subtitles for sections of the article.
Once I feel I got all those segments typed in, I begin to type the text for each section. I usually never do compose it with the same text I had in my brain draft. That’s gone. Nevertheless, sometimes I feel it comes out even better when I finally type it, since it’s the second time around that the thoughts are flowing through my head.
That works for writing any article, not just transcribing a brain draft. Every time I re-read one of my articles, I think of better ways to say things. This is a worthwhile thing to do with existing articles. It helps to improve them further.
It may feel like double effort, drafting in your mind and finally redoing it for real, but it’s worth it. You are constantly empowering your creative thinking to compose something new. Now you know how to make it more productive.
Using Your Creative Thoughts
When You Can't Sleep
When your mind is full of thoughts while trying to fall asleep, some of the best ideas may come to the surface. Insomnia can actually be a stimulus for writing.
It's obvious to me that when I am calmly lying in bed waiting to doze off, my mind has the opportunity to start becoming creative. Many times when I'm trying to fall asleep, the most useful ideas pop into my head. Do you find this happening to you? If so, you should take advantage of it.
I don't understand why this is, but that doesn't matter. What matters is, to make use of that creativity rather than lose it. So many times I would let my mind get into all this creative stuff while falling asleep, but then I couldn't remember a thing the next morning.
If I don't get up and do something about it right then and there, I would have a lot of trouble recreating what I thought about the night before.
So what about you?
When you have a lot of activity going on in your creative mind, it may indeed keep you awake at night. However, this energy can be put to good use.
You're tired, but you're still thinking and coming up with all sorts of creative thoughts. You continue to lie there in bed thinking all those deep thoughts, only to forget them in the morning.
Why not take advantage of it? You can make use of your overactive mind by using those thoughts as writing prompts. You need to get up and write an article with it.
Creative Writing During Sleepless Nights
I find that when this happens to me, not being able to sleep, but thinking a mile a minute, I tend to be more creative when I get up and sit down at the computer to write. Those wonderful thoughts are fresh in my mind and I get it typed into the computer.
I don't need to be concerned about typos or grammar, which can be cleaned up another day when I'm wide awake. Just getting it typed and saved is all that's important. It may just be a series of short prompts, snippets to use for an entire article to be competed later.
Many times these snippets of thoughts that come in the middle of the night are extremely useful. When I review them during the day, I find precious gems that I don't seem to create when I'm rested and awake. I believe the reason for this is that I am too tired to censor myself. Therefore, my mind is free to let the entire deep emotional thoughts come out.
A Tired Mind Can Dream Up Some Fascinating Content
I think the best creative ideas for what to write are those that come from the active tired mind.
When our mind is active and keeping us awake when we are trying to fall asleep, we are usually thinking creatively. This creative thinking is useful for composing articles that we have in the back of our mind, even if we are extremely tired.
As I mentioned earlier, due to this extreme tiredness we don’t censor our thoughts as well. Therefore I think we can take advantage of that by letting the juices flow and write an article from all that mental activity.
The only problem I foresee is that by the time you actually are ready to publish it, after you've proofread it and corrected all the spelling and grammar errors, you may take a second look at it and say to yourself, “Am I kidding? I’m not going to publish that!”
This happens because you were too tired to censor what you were composing during those sleepless sessions.
It's too bad we have a desire to change our mind when we proofread with our daytime brain focusing and censoring. That stuff that we wrote is what dreams are made of. Are we just going to throw it away?
When that happens, I just stop and sit on it for a while. I leave it alone and every once in a while I go back to it.
With a different frame of mind I rework it, but just a little. I wouldn't want to lose the essence of what came from the uncensored mind that dreamed up those thoughts while I was tired. Therefore, I just make the necessary changes to clean up the grammar and make sure everything is clear to the reader.
I don't delete, and I don't try to rework it into something I feel more comfortable with. After all, what comes out of my tired mind when I have insomnia is precious, and so is yours. Keep that in mind the next time you can't sleep and you're mind is racing with dozens of thoughts.
© 2014 Glenn Stok
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