Is There Any Real Value In Writing Down Your Ideas?

Is There Any Real Value In Writing Down Your Ideas?

By Neal Martin/ September 12, 2015
Last Updated April 27, 2023

I’ve never really been one for writing down ideas in notebooks. I have tried to do so in the past, but I never maintained the practice. I couldn’t stop myself from thinking that it was a waste of time.

In the brief periods where I have recorded some of my ideas, I found little benefit in doing so.

For one thing, I rarely read back over the notes that I took. Reading back over a bunch of disjointed thoughts and ideas was off putting to me. When I did do it, I got little benefit from it.

The only possible benefit that I ever really got from writing down my ideas was that it helped to cement those ideas in my head, meaning I didn’t forget them as easily.

The amount of ideas I have had and forgotten over the years would fill countless notebooks. But I have always been of the opinion that if an idea is good, and if it is meant to bear fruit, then it will not be forgotten and I will act on it pretty quickly.

My experience has borne this out somewhat. In general, the ideas that I act upon are the ones that excite me the most, and the ones that take a good grip of me, forcing me to take action on them.

The Idea Experiment

As part of my current drive to further my personal development, I have decided to start writing down as many ideas as possible every day. And I will do this for at least a month so I can see what kind of results will come from the practice.

Why am I changing my mind?

A few reasons.

Apparently, the more ideas you write down, specifically the more bad ideas you write down, the more you increase your chances of having a really great idea come to light.

Every creative wants to be an innovator. As a writer, I long for ideas that are going to blow everything else out of the water. Every writer does, secretly or not.

Of course, it takes more than just an idea to make something truly great and memorable and innovative, but that’s another article. It’s a process. That should be obvious to anyone who has ever tried to be creative in some way any how.

Let’s stay focused on the idea part of the process. I mean, the better the seed, the stronger and better the plant, right?

How You Are Supposed To Generate Good (Great) Ideas

Author and Entrepreneur Frans Johansson talks about the practice of finding ideas in his book, The Medici Effect: Breakthrough Insights at the Intersection of Ideas, Concepts, and Cultures.

He says the strongest correlation for quality of ideas is, in fact, quantity of ideas. The more ideas you pump out, the greater the chance of pumping out a good one, as Johansson himself explains:

“Some individuals or creative teams will come up with ten, a hundred, or even a thousand times more ideas than their peers. Not only that, those who have created the most are also the ones who have the most significant innovative impact. This was true in the past; Pablo Picasso, for instance, produced 20,000 pieces of art; Einstein wrote more than 240 papers; Bach wrote a cantata every week; Thomas Edison filed a record 1,039 patents. This holds true today. Prince is said to have over 1,000 songs stored in his secret ‘vault,’ and Richard Branson has started 250 companies.”

When you put it like that, purposefully generating a large quantity of ideas and writing those ideas down seems like…well, a really great idea!

The Problem Of Stress And Head-Fuckery

Another reason I have found to start writing down my ideas is that carrying everything just inside your head can lead to all sorts of head-fuckery. Sometimes my head is so full of stuff that it feels like it is going to explode like an overloaded Death Star.

It has occurred to me lately that perhaps writing some of that stuff down may ease the pressure in my skull somewhat. At the very least, it might stop me from feeling like climbing the nearest tower with a high powered rifle. Just kidding. It’s not that bad.

It isn’t too fucking pleasant either though. Trying to hold so much information in your head can have a detrimental effect on your equilibrium, leading to other negative shit like depression and self destructive behavior, like serial killing the neighborhood cats.

Again, just kidding. I tend to over use the Mary Jane when my head gets overstuffed and stops working properly. That’s my thing. Others may binge eat or drink, take it out on others. Whatever. The cause is the same.


If writing down all those ideas clamoring for attention inside my head makes things better in some way-and improves the chances of me having better ideas-then I’m all for it.

I’ll check back in a month and let you know how I got on.

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