You cannot control when the muse speaks to you. The weird thing about the muse is that she sometimes speaks to you super-duper-bonkers-like-whoa far in advance. It’s so wild how she might even whisper it to you in a way that you’re not total conscious of hearing. It’s almost like you had the idea in a dream that you barely remember and yet, you’ve been collecting little bits and pieces of inspiration and information that refines the idea from month-to-month and year-to-year. It can be confusing because you’ve also heard the muse speak to you right at the moment when you were ready to take action on the idea. So, you can be forgiven for not always realizing that sometimes she speaks in a totally non-time-bound manner. You cannot control when that perfect idea shows up in your brain. You can only control how you keep track of it and nurture it toward fruition.
Your 29 Days to Diva – Day 13 Assignment: Update your idea vault
The “idea vault” is the phrase I use to describe how you keep track of ideas and inspiration. You need a way to capture the information and save it without having to store it in your memory over the long term. Your idea vault helps you add vital tidbits of information to your creative impulses. In the future, that idea vault can be mined when you’re ready for a new planning phase of a creative cycle.
Your idea vault format
What’s that? You don’t have an idea vault yet? That’s okay. You can start one today. There’s a reason that I titled the post, “update your idea vault” because the thing I want to encourage you to do the most is use this in an ongoing way. It’s also very likely that you have some version of an idea vault even if you haven’t been doing this in a strategic or conscious way. Those ideas are probably scattered around in different notebooks or journals, hanging out in documents or emails, or even as little voice memos on your phone. These are all great formats. However, the idea vault works best when you make the decision to funnel all ideas to one place. I like some version of a cloud storage folder so that you can access it from anywhere, you can collect all formats into one place, and you could share it or work collaboratively on it (if that’s how you work.)
How it works
When the muse speaks to you (i.e. your brain does its awesome stuff and connects with an idea that excites you), create a folder in your idea vault. If you like to write, create a document inside the folder that captures as much information as you currently have about your idea. When you catch yourself daydreaming about the idea and adding more detail to the project in your mind/imagination, add that detail to the document. Sometimes you’ll have a flash of inspiration about who should be involved in a project months after you have the initial idea. You might also find that you start to get some clarity about how much the project will cost or where you want to perform/present the project. Those bits of detail go into the document too. If you like leaving voice memos, save those in the folder instead. Are you a mind-mapping person? Do it by hand or make a Miro board and save an image of it to your folder.
If you’ve been reading the blog for a while or listening to the podcast, you know that I’m a fan of Twyla Tharp‘s The Creative Habit. My idea vault concept takes a lot of inspiration from her “banker box” story¹.
Benefits of having your idea vault
I tell my students and clients that the reason I love the idea vault is because it basically “writes the grant for you.” To be clear, the idea vault isn’t ONLY about grant writing or getting funding for your projects. It’s simply one of the ways that your idea vault can be valuable. As you’ve gathered all of these details and refined your idea in the idea vault, it’s very likely that you’ll end up with plenty of materials that are required during the funding application process such as narrative, budget, timeline, collaborators, etc.
Systematize your idea vault upkeep
Ooof, sometimes I can practically visualize the detritus of organizational systems I’ve used and discarded along the way. As an achiever-productivity-whore-type, I am overly willing to jump on board and try a system that promises better time management and idea organization. Every single time, I come back to the question, “What’s the simplest version of this for me?” I’m not saying that the idea vault is perfect for everyone. I’m sharing it because it’s the simplest thing that’s helped me take action on ideas that I would have otherwise lost if I didn’t have it. Know that phrase, “It works if you work it?” Yep. It applies here too. Add reminders to your calendar to update and refine your idea vault so that it can be a literal treasure trove of creative ideas and not some scary wine cellar that might have some creative dead bodies in it. (Okay, Megan, ease off the true crime…)