Friday, October 21, 2011

The Idea Hour

I recently read Write It Down, Make It Happen by Henriette Anne  Klauser. It's a fantastic book, and I highly recommend it. In fact, I picked it up because Wendy Lawton mentioned it in a blog post for Books & Such Literary Agency. One of the bits of advice that resonated with me? Once a week, head somewhere you can get inspired and spend an hour writing down ideas.

I loved this advice for a number of reasons.

1. As a work-at-home mother, an excuse to head to a coffee shop once a week and do nothing but think got me unusually excited.
2. I often push "idea sessions" back for months to get my "real work" done.
3. I'm a writer. This advice included a. writing b. ideas and c. solitude.

Since I already meet local authors for coffee twice a month, I decided to try the Idea Hour on alternate weeks. Hey, twice a month is better than nothing, and the overachiever in me struggles with giving up even fifteen minutes.

Idea Time:

Yesterday morning, I woke up tired, with a long to-do list, and a few worries hanging over my head. The clouds drizzled rain against a dreary gray sky, and all I wanted to do was drop the kids off at school and head home. But I'd already decided Thursdays were my day, so I drove to Panera with my notebook.

A coffee and a window seat helped my mood, and I took a few moments to soak in the cheery maize walls, strategic lighting, and happy conversations. Feeling a bit better, I journaled for several minutes about the above-mentioned worries. That act improved my attitude immensely, and soon I wrote a few pages of ideas about my writing career, possible blog posts, and what I could realistically accomplish by the end of 2011.

I still had five minutes, so I sipped my coffee and relaxed. By the time I arrived home, I couldn't believe how productive and calm I felt.

I'm already anticipating my next Idea Hour. We have so many different areas to brainstorm. My next session will focus on any areas I could improve my current work-in-progress.

You don't have to limit your sessions to one area in your life. Here are suggestions for other Idea Hours.

* Business
* Housekeeping
* Raising children
* The holidays
* Romance
* House projects
* Vacation
* Book: Work in progress
* Book: New book ideas
* Social media strategies
* Exercise/health

If a theme bothers you, feel free to just come up with solutions for whatever is pressing on your mind.

Since I chose one area--my business as a writer--I thought about what works and what doesn't. The things that aren't working are the ones I brainstormed different methods to try. I didn't limit my ideas to negatives, I also reflected on areas I've improved. It's good to congratulate ourselves from time to time.

Have you ever tried setting aside time each week (or in my case every other week) to write down ideas? Does it seem indulgent to you? Would you be willing to try it?

Have a fabulous weekend!


  1. I do this at work. One hour a week I close my door and brainstorm whatever isn't working at work. I normally have my epiphanies at other times, like when I drive, but this time helps me hash things out.

    I don't know why in the world I never thought about doing it with writing. Thanks for the *slap forehead* moment Jill. ~clink~

  2. I like this a lot. Thanks for a little inspiration to go somewhere and be inspired!

  3. I love brainstorming. I have loved brainstorming since I was in the second grade. I remember it b/c I was placed in this problem solving class (outside normal classes), and we were always brainstorming outside-the-box ways of doing things. Loved. It! I must implement this idea hour into my life. Great idea, Jill.

  4. Scheduled brainstorming even if you don't think you need it is a terrific idea!

  5. Can I just say I wish we lived closer to each other, Jill?! I can always tell by your posts that you and I think a lot alike. (Not to mention I'd love to sip coffee at Panera across the table from you!) :)

    Have a great weekend!

  6. Lovely idea, Jill! I do most of my idea-wrangling in the car but I had never set aside specific time for it - or thought about that. I can definitely see the appeal - like a long soak in the bath for ideas.

  7. This is a great idea. I love that picture. Wish I was sitting there right now. A brand new, and only, Dunkin Donuts opened up. Maybe I'll cruise over there next week and brainstorm ideas. :)

  8. I really like this idea, Jill! I take a little 'me time' every day - 20 minutes or so - but I like the idea of sitting down to idea-out work issues, too.

  9. I've never tried a dedicated Idea Hour before. I have the sticky-note program open on my laptop all the time and when an idea comes to me, I jot it down there. But it's never planned and always random.

  10. This is a common practice for me. I've been known to jot in the car, at church or even on the toilet (oh yeah, I just wrote that). Ideas feed me. It's part of the thrill of this job.

    Oh, and I loved talking with you yesterday! You are such a blessing in my life!
    ~ Wendy

  11. I do sit down and write ideas periodically. I have yet to do it at Starbucks or Panera. That sounds like fun. Hope you can keep your schedule.

  12. Thanks everyone! I'm a very focused type of person--so focused I work on the task at hand until it's time for the next task. I, too, get ideas all the time and put them in an idea journal, but this set hour is a way for me to get beyond the minutae and see the bigger picture.

    It's wonderful--I hope you all try it!!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  13. Adding an Idea Hour to my schedule appeals the me. I'll have to give this a try.

  14. Love this idea! I look forward to the days when my kids are both in school so that I can find the time to get one hour of solitude. :) It's nearly impossible to do on a regular basis when they are under age 5.

  15. I definitely need to do this!! Great suggestions, Jill.

    Hope you had a wonderful week and hope you have a fabulous weekend!

  16. Sarah: I know. Trust me, I know. I don't think I was apart from my kids for more than 6 minutes until they started school full time! That being said, is there any way you could ask your hubby to watch them for 30 minutes twice a month when he gets home from work? You would be amazed at how good it is for you. And, I really think you need it the most when your kids are young. It's a stressful, draining, yet wonderful time!

    Thanks, everyone, for stopping by!

  17. Jill:
    I am a planner-type. I prefer to have a plan for my blog and now,also, my column. I find myself thinking about my writing when I am in the car, when I can't sleep. I've done a lot of 'pre-drafts' in my mind. I like the idea of going some place to think about writing or whatever I need to. I will consider this in the coming weeks. I have a few spots open in my blog/writing writing plans for 2012.

  18. I like the idea of focusing an Idea Session on a particular topic. Otherwise, when I journal, I tend to just replay and replay and replay stuff that is bothering me. And it doesn't always lead to productive solutions...more like complaining to a sympathetic (but silent) friend. I'll try it. Thanks for the suggestion.

  19. Fantastic idea. I'm already picturing myself at a coffee shop with my journal and a whole hour to myself just to noodle ideas. I don't know why I never thought of this before.

    I'll have to pick up Klauser's book. Thanks for the post and inspiration.


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