Where do you get your ideas from?

Helen Redfern
3 min readApr 10, 2022

My writing notebook is an external hard drive for my brain.

Image by Helen Redfern

I’m on day ten of writing 30 articles in 30 days but I feel creatively dry today. I’ve a number of article possibilities looking at me from my scrivener file that I could work on…but none of them currently excite me. So I turn to my writing notebook to see what I’ve written recently. And there’s nothing there. Don’t get me wrong there are paragraphs of text but it’s a script outline for my next YouTube video. It’s notes I’ve taken from a meeting.

I’m missing my daily thoughts.

Notebooks are my creative life. I’m surrounded by them in my office: old ones with scans of my unborn son and daughter inside, new ones that I can’t bring myself to start because, although pretty, they aren’t quite right for me on the inside. And battered, well used ones: spines coming off, post-its sticking out of them and smudge marks on their covers.

My notebooks from the last two years in particular are crammed full with ideas, thoughts and anxieties. They’ve seen me through a pandemic, a need for a biopsy on my tongue and my love/hate affair with Instagram.

They’ve given me answers to questions I didn’t know I was asking. They’ve given me support and insights and they’ve given me sparks of ideas that have grown into something more tangible. With a new notebook you have no idea what you’re about to uncover.

The trick is though — you have to write in it. You have to open those pages, dig out a pen and use it. I know I’ve had all sorts of emotions covering my first couple of weeks here on Medium. But have I written them down? No. I also had a bit of a mindset breakthrough after writing the article about being punched in the face. Did I make a note of that? No, I did not.

Notebooks are fantastic tools for writers and creatives. I have a number of them. One to work out my goals, projects and tasks each quarter, month, week and day. One to record completed tasks. And my writing notebook where I write down everything that enters my head. It’s like an external hard drive for my mind. It gives me content ideas: articles, essays and books have sprung from my writing notebooks. It tells me why I’m scared and works out a way of breaking things down so I don’t get overwhelmed. And it gives me a purpose for my creativity.

But if I don’t use it I don’t have ideas for content.

Today is Sunday. Today I will open my notebook and start scribbling. I don’t know what I’ll write about but I’ll let the words come. Maybe I’ll start by asking myself why I’ve been reluctant to write in my notebook lately. And I’ll see what happens.

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Helen Redfern

Notebook addict, writer and mentor. Helping creatives struggling with confidence around their writing and creativity. helenredfernwriter.com