The Benefits Of An Ideas Board


Ideas Board

I’ve written before about my ideas board. I’ve had it since July when I went out with the specific purpose of purchasing an actual whiteboard to replace the scraps of paper I was writing my ideas on and struggling to keep track of. It now has pride of place in my bedroom (where I do most of my writing); in fact, it’s sitting on a bedside table that is no longer at my bedside but between two windows across the room so I have a good view of it at all times. (There’s a lamp abandoned forlornly on the floor.)

As writers, we can sometimes lose sight of the little things that help make writing easier. My big picture was to write a lot of blog posts. But the small step of buying and implementing the ideas board is what has helped me to do it. Here’s why.

The older I get, the harder it is to keep ideas just in my head. I used to be good at it. Now when I have a great idea and don’t write it down, I am usually able to remember that I had a great idea, just not what the idea was.

I suspect it’s a result not only of age but also the number of different pieces of writing I am constantly trying to juggle these days. Multiple novels in multiple series, multiple blog posts, multiple articles, the occasional poem. It’s all just too much.

But having it all written there on the ideas board helps me to keep track of everything. Sometimes it’s not a coherent idea, just a thought I might have had or an idea for a title with no idea of what the actual piece is going to be about. Current examples of this include:

*Things we don’t talk about
*Love should not be an obligation or an expectation – love always wins
*Where have all the idealists gone?

The one about idealists has been floating around in my head since May and has been on the board since the first day I bought it in July. I think I finally know what the idea is and how to execute it because I’ve been confronted with it so often that I’ve been thinking about it on and off for months. But without the ideas board it probably would have been nothing more than a fleeting thought.

I look at my ideas board up to fifty times a day. In the morning when I wake up, when I get dressed, during commercials when I’m watching television, every time I leave the room, every time I come back into it, and before I turn the light off to go to sleep at night.

The presence of the board has become so motivating that I am now having to force myself not to write. I entered a writing competition yesterday – one that I’ve known about for three months and have been telling myself I have to submit to for the same length of time – but only after I looked at my ideas board eagerly, then said it myself, “No, Louise, you have other plans for today.” I entered the competition, then wrote a blog post as well.

Actually, this has been one of the most productive blog writing periods of my life. Eight in five days this week alone. Because I keep looking at my ideas board and being inspired. It’s a visual and unavoidable reminder that there is always something more, something else, something next to write about.

There are plenty of things I find satisfying but in recent times there is little I find more satisfying than picking up the eraser and removing an idea from the whiteboard after I’ve finished writing about it. In fact, the idea for this post about the ideas board came to me as I was doing just that. I was crouching down to erase an idea at the bottom of the board and I realised I was smiling stupidly. And then I realised why.

I used to get the same satisfaction from drawing lines through items on a paper-based to do list but I’d be left with a messy page full of crossed out text that would have to be thrown out (recycled) eventually, usually before I’d finished everything on the list because I couldn’t stand the chaos on the page.

The whiteboard never has lines through text and while my handwriting might not be straight or might be a bit untidy because I haven’t been able to lean on the writing beneath it when I’m filling a previously used gap, it is a source of more satisfaction than I ever thought it would be.

Post-It Postscript
I’ve previously been a proponent of the post-it method but it has a significant drawback in that you have to be quite close to be able to read them. The whiteboard has allowed me to use large handwriting and position it across the room. I can then lie on my bed and contemplate it in comfort for hours. I’ve quoted Truman Capote before on this topic, who said, “I am a completely horizontal author. I can’t think unless I’m lying down.” If only he’d had an ideas board.

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