Last night I spent two hours in my office with a pad and paper thinking about some fictional ideas, noodling around with legos as I did so.

Best investment of the week.

Process isn’t all about quantifiable words, things achieved, easy to measure goals. Creativity is also about play, it’s easy to ditch the play and creativity on the way to making this a full time job. My reading about creativity, work, neurophysiology over the last year has convinced me to spend more time doing this.

Surprisingly, it has paid off in higher amounts of measured productivity.

What’s your favorite creative tool?

My favorite writing tool is a piece of software called Scrivener, which will be having a major new release sometime late next month, which I can’t wait for.

But for the nitty gritty of outlining and idea creation and while brainstorming, I still use OmniOutliner, a piece of software I started using back in 2002 while working on Crystal Rain, and still adore.

For a long time, the voice notes feature on the Palm Zire 72 was a physical button on the left hand side of the device, you clicked it, audio started recording, and you were off. I miss that hot button. The iPhone audio notes takes a moment longer. In Evernote I have to wait for it to boot. I’ve stopped using audio notes as frequently.

Unlike many, I’m not drawn to fancy pens and paper. I own some moleskines and nice pens, but I tend to grab pens willy nilly. I’m very forgetful and lose them.

I have this sneaking suspicion that I’ve I invested a few hundred dollars in a pen I’d not lose it, like I don’t lose my iPhone, ever. But then I’d have to spend a few hundred on a pen. And at that price, it’s as much as an iPhone…

…what’s your favorite creative tool? Artists? Writers? I’m always curious to see what other people use.

Videoblog: How do I outline novels?

For my most recent videoblog, I answered twitter user Jamietr, who asked, how do I outline novels?

Where do ideas come from?

A frequent question I get from interviewers is: where do your ideas come from? How did you get the idea for a book?

To tie into this, David Barr Kirtley and I were once wondering about those people who come up to you at a book signing. They kind of look nervously around and say something like “I have this idea for a book, and I was thinking, if I gave you the idea, and you wrote it, we could share the profits…”

For many authors, and for me in particular this is an insane proposition. The writing is the hard work, not the ideas. Ideas come. They’re fucking everywhere, man. David pointed out to me that it was because, for many people, they get one idea. They lead uncreative lives, don’t read much, and a single idea comes to them and that’s their one big idea that they hold and treasure and walk around with.

I’ve been a lot gentler to those people since David pointed that out, explaining that I already have more ideas in a file than I will ever have time to write in my life. My problem is choosing which ones I get to write.

How do they come? Here’s an example. I was reading a blog post (that I can’t find now) by Roger Ebert where he quoted the following:

Truman Capote, I said, walked down Fifth Avenue once with Marilyn Monroe, and she said, “Watch this.” And for one block she wasn’t Marilyn Monroe and for the next block she was and he couldn’t see what she was doing but for the first block she was totally ignored and the second block she caused a riot.

And right away I thought, that’s because Marilyn Monroe turned on her fairy glamour for the next block. That’s what she was. And she died because she was a fairy playing a star in the human world, and she was hunted down and killed for it.

And even though that thought popped into my head, it’s only a fragment. It’s not a story, it’s just a fragment. Something I’ll stick in a file so I won’t forget it, but I don’t have time to write or play with any further. I have files and files bursting with just little snippets and URLs with comments attached like this, because the ideas are floating around everywhere.

The hard work is taking the above and making a fun, entertaining story out of it that people will enjoy reading. That’s where the work is, not the initial flash of the idea.

Videoblog: Walking for ideas