Each fall, as new school years kick into gear, I’m flooded with feelings of new beginnings. Fresh starts. And how much I love, love, love the fresh start of a new project…

I’ll admit it: I’m a complete idea junkie. I live for those ah-ha! moments. To me, the beginning of a new project is the sweetest part. The middle is always the hardest—the most sluggish. I can sooo easily get distracted by a shiny new idea.

I started keeping idea journals. I had to. It was the only way I could stay on track. I found that if I just wrote down what was on my mind, I could put it aside and refocus on the project in hand.

But in the process, I realized just how invaluable those journals really are.

The thing is, I think that we have passing ideas all the time that would make great books. But we’re usually in the midst of driving to work or doing homework with our kids or a meeting or at the doctor’s office or, or, or…

And then, when we NEED the idea—when we’re looking a new file or a blank page in the face, it feels like great ideas are few and far between.

That’s not true. Like I said, we have ideas ALL THE TIME. But because they haven’t been recorded, we lose them.

Get a journal. I mean it. One of those cheap little wirebound pocket notebooks. Put it in your purse. Or your glove compartment. Or your laptop case. Get a regular-sized notebook and keep it in your desk drawer. Put another in the kitchen. Put one in the bathroom and one by your bed. Pepper your entire home and office space with the things. And write every single idea down.

By “idea,” I’m not just talking about BIG ideas. I don’t just mean over-arching ideas for what a novel will be. I mean passing thoughts. Fragments of ideas. Phrases that might make cool titles. Quick character ideas—maybe a name, or a personality quirk.

Because the thing is, ideas for books don’t just come all at once, fully formed. They come piecemeal. They’re what happens when about a hundred different weird thoughts, fragments all come together into a single cohesive picture.

When you need to start a new project—or you get stuck in a current WIP—gather up all those journals. Start poring through them. Pull out anything that might possibly help. You don’t even have to know why or how—you might just get kind of a tingle of interest. Pull it. Then look at all the pieces you’ve pulled. Brainstorm a connecting thread. You’ll find your next book. Or you’ll work your way out of the corner you’ve written yourself into. I guarantee.

One of the best part about the idea journal is that not only does it wind up saving you when you need it, it also strengthens your imagination. Before you know it, you’ll soon find that you’re an idea junkie, too!