Organized Artistic Ideas: An Oxymoron?
Updated: Sep 24, 2020
Artists are actually pretty damn organized when it comes to their craft. Especially those working in Production. I mean, a Stage Manager is essentially a Professional Organizer who works longer hours and has way more knowledge about Equity rules. Respect.
I know it seems like an oxymoron to have organized artistic thoughts. Art is meant to be free from the shackles of an institution, as inspiration can come to you at any moment! And honestly, many Artists don't need help in this area. Many Artists have thriving careers and are operating just fine without any of these tips. But for those of you who are a hot mess when it comes to organizing your artistic ideas: Welcome!
The goal of organizing your ideas isn’t just to be organized for fun. We're Adults now- NO FUN ALLOWED, OKAY!? The goal is to keep your notes and ideas organized, ready at your fingertips whenever you want them. Inspiration can be fleeting, so let’s not waste another moment. No more fun, remember? So, leggo...
Paper And Pen Notes
I have worked with Artists before who say they love writing or sketching ideas on paper as they connect to it more. So with all of the paper in a notebook, how do you even begin to try and wrangle the notes?
NYC based artist Daniele Tyler Mathews, AKA Gloria Swansong, gave me some great advice about how they stay organized with notebooks. They say to choose different colored notebooks or folders and dedicate ideas to certain colors. For example, For all costume design ideas, write them in a Yellow notebook (label the notebook, if you like). All Set Design ideas can be in your Blue notebook...you get it. Seems so simple but it's brilliant! Thank you, Gloria! By the way, you should check Gloria out on Instagram @gloria_swansong or on Facebook. *I can personally vouch that their Judy Garland stirs whimsy from your cold dark heart, and their costumes and artistry are absolutely breathtaking.
Don't worry if you write ideas in a different notebook on accident. Simply fold down a corner of the page, or add a small Post-It flag to remind yourself that there's another unique idea in there. Or, if you're like Daniele, tear out the page and tape it into the right notebook. That works, too!
If you’re like most of my friends, you have your phone with you at all times. You might even like to jot notes on your phone when inspiration strikes. For those of you who don’t have a system you like yet, let’s look into some simple ways to get yourself together!
Email yourself- Email yourself with your inspirational thought in the title. Set up an "Ideas" folder that specifically holds these emails. You can create subfolders to further categorize your ideas. I.e. Script Ideas, Lighting, Automation, etc. When you check your email later, drag that idea email into the appropriate folder.
Add it to your calendar- Add an event to your calendar that has the title of your idea. Make sure to have a reminder set for later in the day when you know you'll have a second to followup on it, or create the event for a day when you've already set aside for work.
Voice Memos- Revolutionary suggestion, Tricia. No one has ever thought to do a voice memo. However, you'd be shocked how many people haven't thought about simply recording their idea in a voice memo. I know there about five thousand apps out there for recording both voice and music so please, friends, feel free to share those suggestions in the comments.
Use a Notes App- Most phones have some kind of app built in which allow you to take notes or create to do lists. The iPhone Notes app is my personal go-to. Some Artists like keeping ALL their ideas in the same list. If that thought stresses you out, be sure to create a note for each idea type/category/by show.
Other Organizational Apps- Apps like Evernote allow you to snap pictures of your notes and file them so you can search them and make edits as you need, and so much more. There is a free version of Evernote available, or you can really dive in and purchase more bells and whistles. One Note allows you to really take control of your multimedia and is entirely free.
Something Wicked This Way Comes
Beware that any digital storage has the risk of being lost. Be smart about backing up your important information on the cloud or on an external hard drive.
Paper notebooks are great, but be prepared that you will run out of pages and will need to have a plan for archiving or storage of multiple notebooks. Consider scanning in your notebooks when you have finished them and storing them in the cloud or on Evernote/One Note. *Insert your favorite scanning app here*
Regardless of how you record your ideas, just try to embrace the idea of organization. Remind yourself how happy you’ll feel when you can easily find the idea from your past, thanks to your system. Just remember to have zero fun doing it. Them's the rules.