Twyla Tharp writes in The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life about her love affair with boxes. (That’s an affiliate link to Amazon. Seriously: buy the book. You’ll thank me later.)
OK, that’s a little bit of hyperbole. She uses banker’s boxes — you know, the kind you buy from office supply stores — in her creative process. Each project = one separate box. And everything related to that project goes in the box.
Whatever she uses for that project, goes into the box. This accomplishes two things. First, it keeps her stuff in one central location which makes storing it, after the project’s done, a helluva lot easier.
But it also helps her keep her crap together while she’s working on the project.
So, Twyla uses literal boxes. I use metaphorical ones. The digital variety.
I start a new notebook for each project, each client, each subject I’m keeping up with and/or learning from scratch. (I do not, however, use it for my own fiction writing, oddly — for that, I use Scrivener, which accomplishes some of the same things, in that it captures a variety of different kinds of stuff on a per-project basis.)
I set it up however the context requires. For client notebooks, I’ll have tabs for Client Info, Project Details, Action Items and so forth. For creative projects, it might include tabs for Research, Notes, Inspiration, References, Videos, Blog Posts, or whatever else seems applicable.
You might prefer the analog variety of notebook. Truth be told, I do, too. I really dig the whole ambience, if that’s the right word, of writing things by hand.
But it just didn’t make much sense when almost all of my work-work and creative-work is done digitally. The things I need to keep track of are of the online/digital world. Doesn’t make much sense to handwrite long-ass URLs on paper, right?
The point is this: in order to think outside the box?
You first have to have THE BOX.
The box is not evil. The box is not anti-creativity.
The box is your infrastructure. It’s the skeleton of your creative work. From the right viewpoint, it’s what lets you be creative.
So. First? The box. Then? Think outside it. Third? Bring those creative leaps back INTO the box, so you can find them the next time you need ’em.
Does that make sense?