Tending your ‘ideas garden’

Do you value your ideas? If you’re reading this website then chances are you answered ‘yes’ to that question. Yet unless you record all your ideas I’d argue that you don’t value them. At least not as much as you could. It’s a difficult habit to acquire and it can be time-consuming. But technology is making it so much easier. If you have a smart phone, use twitter or blog then you have easy outlets for both recording your ideas and making them publicly available.

In the appendix to Sociological Imagination, entitled On Intellectual Craftsmanship, C. Wright Mills advocates keeping a file or journal within which to record your ideas. He argues that doing so:

encourages you to capture ‘fringe-thoughts’: various ideas which may be by-products of everyday life, snatches of conversation overheard on the street, or, for that matter, dreams. Once noted, these may lead to more systematic thinking, as well as lend intellectual relevance to more directed experience […] by keeping an adequate file and thus developing self-reflective habits, you learn how to keep your inner world awake. Whenever you feel strongly about events or ideas you must try not to let them pass from your mind, but instead to formulate them for your files and in so doing draw out their implications, show yourself either how foolish these feelings or ideas are, or how they might be articulated into productive shape.

So why not start? Tools like Posterous or Tumblr can be great places for ‘online scrapbooks’ or ‘ideas gardens’.  Though of course not all our ideas are good. But I take Wright-Mills to be saying that it’s only through recording our ideas in such a file that we become able to properly evaluate them and that, in doing so, we learn to keep ourselves intellectually alive.

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3 replies »

  1. I agree that when you have an idea, it should be written down. Most pieces of writing, big or small, can be used for something, now that there are so many ways of sharing ideas. I keep a document on my computer in which I jot down ideas for writing, whatever form this may take, as soon as these ideas come to me. As these ideas grow, I make separate documents for each one. Some will result in tweets, some in blog posts, some in journal articles, some in books.

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