Creativity is key. I’m a screenwriter. I am constantly looking for ways to get into and stay in the creative zone. But I am also constantly looking for ways to be more efficient and squeeze an extra hour or two out of my day.
Each creative has a process- brainstorming, outlining, composing- index cards, white boards, post-it notes, scrap paper, notebooks, journals, word processing programs, dictation software, etc. Chances are you use some combination of the aforementioned. But it is the most effective combination?
Ideas come at any hour of the day. In the middle of the night, while you are in the shower, driving, eating, standing in line at the supermarket, etc. And when you have a great idea, you want to capture it immediately.
Up until today, I was usually doing that the old fashioned way, with a pen. Occasionally, when I was out, I typed an idea into my iPhone. So I accumulated a huge, messy, inefficient stack of scrap paper, post-it notes, journals, index cards, and diagrams, plus the occasional digital file, not to mention reams of printed pages.
I would copy the handwritten stuff into a word processing program, try to organize it the best way the software would allow, and use that to refer to while I composed the scenes in my screenwriting software. When I needed to rewrite, I would rework my outline in my word processing program.
However, I found this entire process hugely inefficient. And sometimes, downright risky, such as when my 4-year-old daughter or my 110-pound puppy would sneak into my office while my stack was spread out across every inch of the floor.
We live in the digital age. I’m a tech savvy girl. So why is my otherwise organized office cluttered with unsightly stacks? Why am I wasting my time looking for post-it notes that failed to stick, or deciphering late night handwriting? Why am I taking 10 different sources and trying to organize them in a software program that wasn’t designed for such a purpose? And then there’s the need to have everything at your fingertips when you are on the go.
I am both creative and analytical in about equal measure. While that is ideal for a screenwriter striving to be equally strong in both character and plot, it is a little more challenging to integrate into an efficient workflow.
The creative part of my brain wants to get down the ideas as quickly as they pop into my head. My analytical part wants them digitally printed, grouped by topic, and color coordinated. These two worlds have collided everyday in my neatly organized office- cumbersome stacks perpetually annoying the perfectionist in me. Wasted time spent copying and crumbling the components of said stack and collating them into a useful digital file. There has to be a better way.
Today, I found it. I discovered I was missing two important programs in my creative workflow- mind mapping software and outlining software.
You may already be familiar with the term mind mapping- a method of visually organizing information. Many of the world’s most brilliant minds have used some form of it– Leonardo Da Vinci, Pablo Picasso, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, even Deepak Chopra and Bill Gates, to name a few.
For those of you that are tech savvy, there are a variety of mind mapping software programs. I’m a Mac girl, so I went with highly touted toketaWare’s iThoughtsX ($49.99 MacOS) and iThoughts ($11.99 iOS). I fell in love instantly.
Finally, a software program that is fast enough to keep up with my brain and elegantly designed enough to not interfere with my creative process! Best of all, I can use it on my laptop, my iPad, and my iPhone. (Fingers crossed they come out with an app for my AppleWatch.)
I could generate and organize, at light speed, in perfect creative and analytical harmony. Dragging and dropping to my heart’s content, customizing the colors, all in uniform little bubbles that can be exported in a variety of useful formats, including a universal outline, OPML (Outline Processor Markup Language).
Which leads me to the next new weapon in my creative arsenal– OmniOutliner (Standard $49.99, Pro $99.99 MacOS) and OmniOutliner 2 ($29.99, iOS). It imports and exports a variety of formats, including OPML files.
Here I can do my more detailed analytical work. It’s fully customizable in a variety of styles and efficiently navigable with collapsible and expandable items in a convenient sidebar. It’s the perfect reference to leave open on my desktop as I compose my masterpiece in Final Draft.
If you are still on the fence, both programs can be used for a slew of other productive uses, really any sort of brainstorming and structuring of ideas- an office meeting, a To Do List, a research paper, even the Great American Novel. I love that I can send files back and forth between both programs and go from my laptop to my iPad or iPhone, and back again.
So if you are a tech savvy creative, you may want to consider investing in both mind mapping and outlining software to create a more efficient workflow. Remember, time is money. Besides, you know you’re worth it.