What’s a Swipe File?
A swipe file is a way to collect and store good ideas for later use. It can be created in a variety of physical and computerized means, depending on what works best for you. However you choose to file the ideas that make you curious, create a place to keep notes and clippings for further inspiration. This article will explore a few different ways to put one together for yourself, and how to use it as a constant source of new material. A swipe file is a place to put all kinds of ideas you like, to look back at for further inspiration later.
You can create your own swipe file to help generate ideas and inspiration very easily. When you look back at clipping you added weeks or months ago, it will give you new ideas and a framework for discovery and creativity. You should probably create different sections, to help organize the clippings you’ll save. You can use your computer to do it on or offline, or you can create a physical swipe file, or both. Create it in Google notebook, an office document, or a shoebox under your bed. Whatever works for you. If you keep your eyes open through the course of your normal day, you’ll find lots of things to put in it.
Why is a Swipe File useful?
On that day when you want to sit down and write something, but don’t know where to begin, take a moment to look back over what you’ve stored in your swipe file. Depending on how you create it, you may have mixed media to review, and something is likely to spark your creativity.
There are many ways this can become useful. Imagine that you have a section labeled “Quotes” and happen to be writing an article about Love. Depending on what you’ve saved over time, you may discover that an inspiring quote gives you something to add. Imagine that you are studying herbal medicine and have a section labeled “Research Notes”, and how easy it would be to organize recipes and ideas learned in different places. Or perhaps that you like to write songs, and you have a section labeled “Lyric Ideas”.
A swipe file can also be very useful as a way to mix and match components of great ideas. You will find that sometimes the ideas you save in various sections have interesting cross overs and correlations. Say you have a great article idea, and you don’t know what you want to call it. You may be able to look at your page of title ideas that are totally unrelated to your subject, and find catchy elements you can reuse in a new way. The songwriter, for instance, might find that something in the “Quotes” section inspires “Lyric Ideas”, and have it take them in a new and interesting direction.
Whether you want to create your swipe file online, or whether you’d prefer to do it the old fashioned way with notebooks and shoe-boxes, a swipe file is intended as a kick-start to your own writing. By collecting examples of what inspires or moves you, you may have examples of what draws peoples attention. You can learn a lot about what works and what doesn’t by taking a look at a good idea, and figuring out what makes it interesting or useful.
Ways to Create a Multi Media Swipe File
You could do this in a physical notebook or scrapbook, but with our current technology I’d suggest trying to create a swipe file using either Google Notebook or Blogger.
If you have a blog and enjoy posting, you might enjoy recording your swipe-file in a private blog. You’ll be able to access it from any computer, and can integrate mixed media into your toolbox for inspiration. By creating a Blogspot account and making a specific blog for your purposes, you’ll find it easy to create different pages for sections and add all kinds of different ‘clippings’.
Your clippings can be in any number of formats if you create your swipe file this way. You can add text, partially written essays, quotes, anecdotes, and different written pieces. You can also add photo’s, videos, audio files, and links to articles and information you want to have ready access to. This blogging style of swipe file can be done using any number of free platforms for blogging, including Blogger, Word Press, Live Journal, and many others. Use whichever you are most comfortable with.
Another way to create a multi media swipe file that is accessible from the internet is to create an online notebook using Google notebooks. For those that are familiar with Google documents, you may find this a very effective way to create your own swipe file and also be able to share it with others if you wish.
Once you have your swipe file together, you’ll want to get in the habit of adding things to it. Having organized your swipe file into sections, you’ll find it easier to find what you’re looking for later. Add and delete sections as you go and see what emerges.
Some Possible Sections to Start With
Topics for Articles
Things to Research
Pictures that made me Look
Videos that made me watch twice
Songs that Move Me
Lyrics I Like
Ideas for Fiction
Outlines for Travel Guides
Outlines for How to Topics
Related to My Blog
Causes I believe in
Things I Learned
Things that make me smile
Personalize Your Swipe File
Your own swipe file can have anything you want in it. You can also create different files for subjects that really interest you, and topics you already know you like to research and write about. Your swipe file will become highly personal, and linked to the different types of writing that you do. For instance, a Steampunk fiction writer might have a file called “Imaginary Inventions that Would be Cool”, and someone who likes medieval festivals and blogs about costuming might have a file called “Costume Ideas” or “Links for Patterns”.
Adding Ideas from Others
Of course your swipe file will be primarily comprised of your own stuff, don’t be afraid to learn from others. If you find a section of an article by someone else that you really like, cut and past it into an appropriate location. That way you can really look at it later, and think about what it was that made you interested.
It will be very useful to make note of where you found things you decided to clip into your file, in case you decide you want to use it as a direct credited resource. Make sure to add a link if it came from a website, or note the book or periodical and the author. A swipe file is intended to help you get inspiration and ideas to do your own work from. It should be noted that nothing you’re copying to look at later should be used inappropriately or plagiarized. It’s just a way to more deliberately try to learn from other people who are good at writing.
Using A Swipe File on a Group Project
If you work with other writers or artists, or find yourself involved in a group project, you may want to try creating a swipe file the whole group can access and add things to. It can be interesting to set up files that can be shared with one another because different people will stumble across different things. Since we all have different experiences and perspectives, each person will notice and save different kinds of things and those things may be useful to others as well themselves.
Try using Google Notebooks or Docs to do this yourself, or set up a blog or forum that’s accessible to the group. It’s an easy way to do this and keep the information accessible to everyone online. Sharing swipe files may be a way for writers to share the components of effective writing with each other.
Freelance Writing Tips Blog
Creating Slide Shows
Using Images from Wikimedia Commons