The Glorious Mess
I have too many notebooks, note-taking apps, and devices. And I just bought another. Some are grid-ruled, some are lined, and some are blank sketchbooks. Some are spiral-bound. Some let me paste in media and some let me edit that media, scribbling over it or making notes on it. I have the paradox of choice — I have too many tools from which to choose when taking notes, and as a result, I have shit all over the place and I can’t find any of it, even though I wrote it down so that I wouldn’t forget it. I have notebooks dedicated to fiction writing, scratch pads for hashing out game design ideas, app subsections for reference works, and little folders full of scraps of paper and physical copies of articles that I really, really promise I’ll mark up or read again this year, definitely.
The romantic notion of the glorious mess, I find, doesn’t work for me. I’ve never been the type of creative who thrives in the chaos of pure potential. I like to know what I’m doing and then work toward that goal. As a designer, I’m more like a producer. I want the thing I’m making to be tight and complete, not sprawling and overstuffed (but only partially done and, hey, we didn’t have time to test that, but it’s in there). I like iterative development because it lets me get rid of stuff that’s rattling around under the hood more than because it gives me a chance to cram something else in there.
But of course, life doesn’t work that way. I don’t get to pick and choose my inputs or decide when an idea is going to come to me. (The shower, when I literally cannot scribble something into a notebook or peck it into a mobile device, is a particularly fecund idea time.) And that’s why I have ideas scribbled all over the place, spoiling on their vines until I can give them a little attention. Assuming I can remember where I wrote them. But at the very least, I take the first step. I write the thing down so I can come back to it later. The journey of a thousand awesomes always begins with that first step, which must be more ordered line than inchoate scribble.