I often get ideas at the most inconvenient of times. Like when I’m taking a bath. There I am scrubbing my hair, with shampoo getting into my eyes when the idea bulb suddenly lights up. I mentally try to sticky post that idea, but 80% of the time I’ve forgotten about it by the time I’m out of the shower.
Sometimes it’s during worship service hour on Sundays inside the church. A phrase or a funny vignette from the pastor’s message would spark an idea. Other times, it would be when I’m washing the dishes. Or when I’m about to fall asleep. Or inside the pedicab on my way to work.
Why can’t these Eureka moments strike when I’m facing my laptop or sitting in my worktable ready to just execute that idea to fruition?
This is the reason why I’m never anywhere without a notebook, pen and my Blackberry.
BlackBerry has this MemoPad app where I can quickly type out “sketches” for a possible story or blog post. After the 6.9-magnitude earthquake struck last month, I wanted to capture the feeling of the moment, the fear, the emotional roller coaster and the chaotic scenes around me by typing on my BB vignettes of what was happening around me. This led to my post on “30 seconds can feel like forever.”
This way, even if I’m not able to sit down and write a post about the experience right away, I can refer to my notes on my BB to provide the flesh of the story even if it’s been weeks or months afterwards.
For those times when I’m in a more convenient situation, like in the middle of a meeting for example, I can just whip out my notebook (a lined Moleskine for me) and pen (Pilot V5) without raising any eyebrows. It’s really bad manners to use your cellphone while in a meeting, right? Even if I wasn’t actually texting but rather just typing down my ideas, it would still look like I’m texting. With my Moleskine, however, would look like I’m jotting down notes of what’s going on during the meeting.
Although, sometimes, I would just be doodling.
In my line of work, I’ve learned the value of “writing down the moment.” I don’t have a photographic memory (which, come to think of it, would really be cool for a writer). When I’m in the middle of a press conference, or interviewing someone, I don’t just rely on my recorder. I want to note down some of the stuff that the tape won’t be able to capture, especially when it’s for a feature story. Gestures, expressions, descriptions – these are what add color to a story. It makes it much more meaty.
As Anton Chekhov famously said:
Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.
What helps me show the glint of light are my notebook, pen and BlackBerry. I can walk out of the house without lipstick on, but never without these three “apps.”∗