Spontaneous note taking – a guide from a note-a-holic

Spontaneous note taking guide

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If you are anything like me, and indeed a lot of other writers, inspiration can come to you out of the blue. Perhaps you had a really vivid dream and thought, hey that’s a great idea for a novel, or maybe you were sat on the bus one morning and saw something that triggered an idea for a scene or setting. A lot of scenes and even tiny details in my novel came to me when I wasn’t actually sat down writing, and if I hadn’t noted them down, they would have been lost forever. Often, it is these charming details and sometimes bat-sh*t crazy plots or characters that can really make your writing sparkle, so it is your duty as a writer not to let them get away! What’s the best way to ensure this? Writing it down, duh. 

Below I have outlined a couple of hints and tips to get you on top of your spontaneous note taking game.

The little things matter – notes don’t all have to be groundbreaking

Don’t discount things that seem ‘normal’ or ‘day to day’ such as mannerisms or small details. These things are often overlooked when you are writing, but it is these details that can bring a sense of relatability to your story and make your characters seem real and genuine.

You can’t force spontaneity

Don’t get bogged down trying to force ideas upon yourself – the whole point of spontaneous note taking that it is, yes you guessed it, spontaneous. It is to capture those thoughts you have when you are not thinking, and your mind is free to wander into the realms of silliness or eye-opening clarity.

Many of my ideas and details come to me when I am mindlessly scrolling instagram, relaxing in the bath or even sat on the toilet. Never underestimate the power of a relaxed mind-state, even if you it happens to be when you have your trousers around your ankles!

Eureka moment


Your phone is your friend

Use your phone’s note taking facility or an app like Evernote when you are on the go. Evernote is great because if you lose the device, your notes are not lost. If you use your phone, be sure to keep backups or hard copies when you get a chance to rifle through them in case something happens to it.

Sleeping and dreaming = thinking outside the box

There is lot of research into whether your mind is at its most creative when it is relaxed, and I am not about to wade into any sort of scientific debate, however, both Heather and I find that our dreams and a relaxed mindset are invaluable creative resources when it comes to ideas.

I can’t count the amount of times I’ve woken up bleary eyed, desperately scribbling down an idea that I dreamt. Or when I’ve been drifting off and all of a sudden had a Eureka moment. It’s great and pretty exciting.

A quick word of warning though – not everything you note down in your sleep will make sense! A few times when we have both read our notes once we have properly woken up, the first thought has been, WTF? Is that English? What on earth was I thinking? Don’t let this put you off, this is all part of the fun.

Use sticky notes

I often get ideas whilst sat at my desk at work, and I don’t want to be sat on my phone aggressively tapping away. However, what doesn’t look out of place in an office environment is writing on post-its. I am a post-it-note-a-holic and an obsessive note taker, so it is natural  for me to scribble down my ideas on a sticky note. I then fold it up and store it away, ready to go through later when I need to. I used to keep mine in my phone case, although I’ve upgraded to a fancy little credit card holder that Heather picked up for me in Benidorm – classy I know ;).

Spontaneous note taking

My note holder – couldn’t do without it now!

And so that rounds off my quick hints and tips for spontaneous note taking. I hope that you will find this useful, and we would both love to hear your stories. What is the funniest thing you’ve scribbled down in a sleepy stupor? Have you got any other tips on the subject?

Comment below and let us know!

Until next time – Rebecca 


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