When it comes to how we capture our ideas, nowadays we have plenty of App-based options to choose from. But there’s still something about doing things the Old Skool way and writing them down.
What do you do when you get an idea for a book title, a character or a scene, a dialogue moment or a plot point? If I’m at my PC, I make notes in Evernote or Scrivener. If I’m at work and I get an idea, I either scribble it down on a handy bit of paper or, if I’m on my break, I use the Voice Recorder app on my phone and speak it out before I forget it.
The problem isn’t so much taking and making notes of our ideas, it’s keeping them organised. And the more notes you have, the easier it is to get them in a muddle.
And what do you do if you’re the sort of Creative who has lots of ideas for different things? Not just books and novels, but songs, videos, blogposts or podcasts. Then there are all those business ideas you have, or ideas for things that could be income generators.
Any one of them could turn out to be The Big Idea, but if you either can’t find them or, worse still, you forgot to write them down, you risk losing them forever.
Thinking about this whole business of how we capture our ideas, I concluded that it would be great if I had an Ideas Journal, where I could record my ideas for various creative projects and keep them all in one place where I could easily find them.
A quick search on Amazon didn’t really turn up what I was looking for. So I made my own.
I called it My Great Ideas! which I think is as catchy a title for an ideas journal as you can get. ‘Cos, even if they turn out to be not quite so great after all, in the moment when you have it, every idea is a great idea.
Now before you think that this post is merely a cunningly disguised sales page, it isn’t. What follows is what I had to go through to create the darn thing so you’re better prepared than I was if you ever do something similar. It took a while but, as always it seems, there were some challenges along the way…
First thing to say is that I’ve had the idea for An Ideas Journal for a while now. I liked the idea of having a journal where I could keep track of all my ideas for all the different things I have ideas for. All in one place. Such a thing didn’t exist so I made one.
I don’t know about you, but I find there’s something about writing things down that helps you retain them. My memory retention seems to be better if I actually write it down someplace instead of typing it in a note at my PC, which comes with the aforementioned problem of knowing how to find it again.
The idea of being able to pick up an actual physical book and flip through the pages where I’ve got all my ideas for books, all my ideas for novels, all my ideas for videos etc was one that I found a lot more appealing than searching for them on my Hard Drive.
The pages for the journal, as well as the cover, were created in Canva. I’ve had a Canva account for ages but never used it until now. It was grazing on YouTube that sparked the idea for actually making this idea real, thanks to a Barbara Everett tutorial video that appeared in my sidebar playlist – Creating Journals With Canva. [I’ve put the link for the video at the end of the post in case you want to watch it]
My Great Ideas! was, and is, intended for people like me, people who have different ideas for different areas of creative expression, not just books or novels. So the first thing I had to do was locate icons for each of the different sorts of ideas people like me have.
With that done I then had to put together an explanation page – How To Use This Journal – showing readers how to fill in the various sections of the page. I did this by duplicating the page and adding in the explanatory text. After which, I ended up with this:
So you start off by writing in the date on which you had the idea. Then you number the idea in the lightbulb on the right.
For Creatives like me, there are two good things about this.
The first is that you can see how many ideas you’re having and when, especially if you put the time in as well as the date. That can help give you a pointer as to whether you’re a morning or an evening sort of person, and even which days seem to be the ones on which you get most of your ideas.
Then you circle one or more of the icons, depending on what sort of idea it is. For instance:
Book + Paintbrush: You’ve had an idea for your book cover, what a character looks like or maybe the layout of where a scene is set.
Pencil + Headphones: You’ve had an idea for a blog post that you can re-purpose into an item for your podcast. Or maybe the other way round.
Play Button + Cash: You’ve had an idea for an online course that could generate some income using video tutorials. Etcetera, etcetera…
Then you write down as much detail about your idea as you can and what you need to do to make it happen, which is what separates the good, actionable ideas from the not so good or resource-deficient ideas you’ve had.
Hint: Creativity Rule Number One is never throw an idea away. Just because it’s not actionable now, doesn’t mean it won’t be in the future. If you throw away an idea that’s un-actionable by you now, I can guarantee it’ll be actionable by someone else later on…
With all that done, the next step was to duplicate the pages to get enough to make a decent-sized, printable journal. From start to finish, creating the initial document in Canva took me about seven hours. Which isn’t bad considering it was the first time I’d used it. But it was here that I made my first avoidable error.
Canva has a page limit of 100 pages. But with a journal, you don’t need to duplicate every single page right up to that limit, you only have to do as many as you need. When you export the finished PDF, you can then import it into Adobe Acrobat and mess around with it. I could have saved myself a lot of effort if I had created less duplicate pages to start with.
When you import the PDF into Adobe Acrobat you can change the order of the pages if you want to, duplicate individual pages, and add in blank pages & a copyright page to get you up to your intended page count for the journal.
Knowing I was going to be printing this via Amazon’s KDP, I already knew that books with less than 100 pages won’t have any spine text. Although a journal doesn’t have an author’s name on it, I still wanted some spine text so it looked nice on my bookshelf.
It’s at this point that you should delete the Canva cover from the book PDF, otherwise it’ll appear as a B&W page in your KDP-printed book. And mess up your pagination.
With a page count of 120 pages, enough for readers to record 100 ideas, or their first 100 ideas, it was time to do the cover. First thing to do was to download the page-sized KDP Cover Template. I then grabbed the cover from the original Canva PDF and resized it to fit the template before adding the spine text, Bryan Mack Books logo and Back Cover Blurb.
The cover went up without a hitch. The manuscript, not so much.
I was surprised to discover that the Adobe PDF wasn’t the right size, despite me setting the Canva original to 6″ x 9″, my intended print size. The only way I could get it to work was to resize the PDF in Adobe by 90%. When I did that, KDP had no problems with the manuscript.
From starting the KDP part of the process, to getting the finished result took about three hours as a result of having to work out how to do the resizing of the manuscript. So that makes a total of ten hours to create this journal from scratch. Add in the two hours it took to write, and re-write, this blog post, the whole thing took me half a day.
I hope sharing what I had to do helps you get yours out a lot quicker!
And finally, here’s the link to that Barbara Everett video I mentioned: