The idea-catcher — how to catch story ideas on the run


kay, I’m (finally-whooo!) writing in earnest again now, and I have a feeling this little hack is going to be one of my most useful writing tools:

Whatsapp voice-notes.

Just in case you haven’t already discovered this, I’ve found it a GODSEND for capturing ideas.

I’ve carried notebooks and pens around with me for as long as I can remember, and in the supermarket queue (where I have all my best ideas), I’ve often been left fumbling with groceries, pen, purse, pad, and phone. Before long, I’ve either dropped things, reached the checkout and had to stuff them all back in my bag, or (more usually) thought,

“I’ll pack the groceries up first, and write the story idea down when I get back to the car.”

Which I don’t.


Because that’s twice as long as it takes for me to forget I even HAD an idea, let alone what the idea was.

As of this week, though, no more ideas will be lost! Instead, I’ll open up Whatsapp, go to my “Novel” group, press the mic, record the 5- or 10-second idea, and let go. It takes a total of maybe 7-15 seconds and requires no fumbling, no pen, and no paper. Later, I can just replay it, and the idea is right THERE, where I need it.

I appreciate that I might be slow to this, but in case you haven’t been doing this for years, I thought I’d share.


How to set it up?

OK, Whatsapp doesn’t automatically let you send messages to yourself, but you can rig it easily by setting up a group in which you’re the only member. This is done by adding a random contact, creating the group, and deleting the random contact.

    1. Open Whatsapp
    2. Open Menu
    3. Click New Group
    4. Add a random friend to the group
    5. Click on Menu/Group Info
    6. Name the group
    7. Delete random friend from the group

All done — you can now go into the group (mine’s called Novel) whenever you want, and record a little voice message that only you will be able to hear (unless you choose to add anyone else to the group).

Downside? OK, talking to myself about sometimes completely off-the-wall fiction ideas in the middle of a busy shop might make me look like I’ve lost ALL my marbles, but hey, do I care? It’s an idea-catcher, and I’m someone who has lost hundreds, maybe thousands, of ideas to the great myth “I’ll remember this and write it down later”.

From now on, they’ll be lost no more.

Now, I just need to find an extra couple of hours each day to write all the stories… Anyone got any good ideas for that?

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