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10 things to write on in an emergency!

Iain Broome
Iain Broome
4 min read
10 things to write on in an emergency!
Photo by Deon Black / Unsplash

Once you abandon your muse and accept the fact that other commitments in your life will sometimes prevent you from writing, you can prepare for the unexpected.

When an idea arrives, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, you need to be ready. The truth is, your best ideas don’t always come to you at appropriate times. I used to regularly find myself without a notepad, desperately repeating an idea in my head to make sure I remembered it. It rarely worked. Usually, I’d forget large parts of the idea. Often, I wouldn’t remember I’d had an idea at all.

This is my advice. If you get an idea, write it down. Even if it turns out to be a useless idea, you just never know. It’s better than losing what could be the foundations of an interesting piece of work.

It sounds simple, but it’s amazing how easy it is to have an idea and find yourself thoroughly unprepared.

Usually, all you need to remember is the spark. Just enough to trigger that same train of thought you stumbled upon when the idea first came to you. You don’t need half an hour and a laptop.

Write here, write now

If the idea happens to arrive when you’re in front of a computer and during some free time, then great. You can stick it in a Word document (other document types are available) and spend a couple of hours refining your thoughts.

If, as is more likely, the idea comes when you’re in a business meeting, on the toilet or bathing the kids, you’re in all kinds of trouble.

You’re going to need one of these 10 things.

A notepad

Of course, the wonderful notepad. If you haven’t got one, get one. Preferably a Moleskine. Then take it everywhere you go and you won’t have to use the rest of this list, which may be a blessing.

Post-it notes

Everyone’s favourite yellow reminding device. I usually use Post-it notes to combine and develop ideas, but they’re also great for keeping round the house. It goes idea > scribble on Post-it > stick to keyboard for later.

Your hand

Another classic. The hand is an underestimated writing surface. Not only is it convenient and easy to use, you’ll be very hard-pressed not to have it with you at all times.

Miscellaneous body parts

The problem with writing on your hand is that your idea automatically enters the public domain. So, if you’d rather not have your boss, parents or fellow train passengers reading what’s on your scrawl-ridden palms, find somewhere else on your person. I have previously written ideas on my foot, ankle and stomach. Don’t forget and have a shower.

Someone else

If points 3 and 4 don’t do it for you, try writing on someone else. Why not? How often do we say, ‘Remind me to…’ or ‘I’ve just had an idea…’ when we’re with someone? If you’re about to go into a meeting and it simply isn’t appropriate to write on yourself, write on your workmate instead. They can read it back to you later.


Nick Cernis over at Put Things Off talks about The Banana Reminder in his marvellous book, Todoodlist. He suggests writing important tasks on your morning banana to make sure you don’t forget to do them. It works. I’ve tried it. However, switch tasks for ideas and add oranges, lemons and any other fruit with a non-edible skin to your list of writing surfaces, and you’re in business. Just make sure you transfer your idea to your notepad or computer before you have your tasty teatime snack.

Beer mats

Made famous by many a lyricist, the beer mat has a reputation for being an ideal emergency writing surface, though almost exclusively for writers who frequent public houses, bars or restaurants, of course.


I get a lot of my ideas when I’m in the shower, which is most irritating. Usually, I can hold it in the think-tank (that’s my head, not part of the shower) until I get to my notepad. However, if I can feel the idea slipping away, I’ve been known to reach around the shower curtain and make a quick note in the steam on the window. Other recommended windows include frosty cars and dirty sheds.

Toilet paper

Oh come on, we’ve all been there. Ideas can strike at any time. Leave a pen in the cardboard tube, just in case. Or behind the S-bend.

The Wonderwall

Finally, an idea I’ll talk about in a later post. The Wonderwall is not related to the once well-reputed UK rock band, Oasis. It’s actually an idea we’re currently putting into action where I work. It’s very simple. We’re designating an entire wall of the office to any ideas and brainwaves we might have. That’s it.

Have an idea or suggestion about how we might work better? Write it on the wall. Of course, in your family home, you might prefer not to cover your lounge in marker pen, but there’s no reason why you can’t create a Wonderwall in your study. If you don’t want to write directly on to the wall (which I do understand), use Post-it notes. If your ideas are related, use the wall to plan and combine your notes.

What do you write on?

Have you been inspired and found yourself without something sensible to write on? What do you do in a creative emergency? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

WritingideasPost-it notesnotebooks

Iain Broome Twitter

I'm the author of the novel, A is for Angelica. Every week, I send Draft Mode, a newsletter full of tips and tools that help you improve your craft and promote your writing.

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