I mentioned the vault in passing the other day, but I figured I’d take a moment and explain what that is. If you follow any creative people out in the world, you probably have heard them state that they have more ideas than they can pursue. That’s certainly true in my case as well, but I don’t like to let ideas die on the vine, and I don’t have a great memory.
I’m lucky enough, however, to have been born into the computer age, when the quantity and quality of information you can store doesn’t rely on anything as primitive as a notebook; instead, I have access to a rich set of infinitely-pliable storage mechanisms. For a lot of years, I used them much the way you might use a notebook, to store text in various formats, but in the last few years I have taken the opportunity to broaden and improve my utilization of those mechanisms.
When I say “the vault”, what I mean, currently, is mostly my Dropbox cloud storage. I like Dropbox because it’s neither exclusively local nor exclusively online, and it has a great ecosystem of apps that make it easy to retrieve content in a way that’s device-appropriate – my two main computers have my entire vault of creative materials, whereas my mobile devices (Android phone, iPad) only retrieve as-needed.
So what’s in the vault?
There’s a lot, both in breadth and in depth. I reorganized earlier this year because I finally came to accept that I would never be able to actually work on all the things. Instead, I have chosen a small number of projects to allow into the “active” mode. I try to keep it pared down as far as I can, but the number keeps trying to grow.
The beauty of this setup, at least for me, is that I always have somewhere to put my one-offs. Mostly they go in the Notions folder, which contains a number of files organized by subject.
These give me a nice deep pool of working ideas on those days when my inspiration isn’t firing. At the moment I have enough active projects that I don’t do a lot of dipping into this folder, but it’s nice to have it there for when I need it again.
Which brings me to my personal answer to that old question about where one gets inspiration. The answer, for me at least, is the vault. I fill it up slowly, paying attention to my life and the world around me, and I empty it even more slowly by creating stuff at whatever rate I can manage. I’d like to be making things more quickly, to be sure, but given the backlog I’m not really worried about running out anytime soon. A lot of the time the relevant question isn’t where I get my ideas but where I put them.
The answer to that question is easy – I put it in the vault.