I’ve been digging around in my archive of voice recordings, which is one reason why I haven’t been posting quite as much as I should here. (A power outage and a major toothache are the other reasons.)

Even though it always feels odd and indulgent, I have to force myself to work my way through those files, and I took out a good swath of them in this recent session. (You can read more about my ongoing battle with my voice recordings here.) I got through the 300 most recent recordings in my “C” (for “Creative”) folder, which amounts to the most recent 8 months worth of recordings.

So now, when it comes to my “C” folder, I am caught up to early 2006 on the far end and mid-2010 on the near end–leaving about 4 and a half years worth left to go. (And about 4 and a half years worth completed so far.) The good news is that at least half of that has been done in the past few months…which means that when I really buckle down and get into it, I can get through this giant backlog over time.

(I store different sorts of things in other folders in my voice recorder – business and/or politics in “B”, to-do items in “A”, and various things in “D” and “E”. But “C/creative” is the most populated over the past 5 years, by far.)

Those 300 recordings that I just finished sorting consisted of a wide range of stuff, though very heavy on the first four here:

  • songs – spoken/lyrics only
  • songs on the keyboard recorded “live”
  • many “silly dog songs”*
  • jokes and ideas for stand-up comedy
  • new screenplay/movie ideas
  • sketch and short video ideas
  • drafts of my columns, some which have been finished/published, others still drafts
  • same thing, but for my The Little Things comics
  • several ideas for small situations or concepts for within movies
  • an essay about walking in the dark
  • an e-book about being a responsible pet owner
  • social media blog post ideas
  • various loose ideas for several of my existing screenplay projects

*We’ll get into why I am collecting “silly dog songs”, and why I record almost all my ideas, in another post.

Listening to all these things in rapid succession provides a dizzying rush, and a nice reminder of the reality behind what I’m trying to build in my life. There is certainly an aspect to my backlog of ideas/recordings that could be seen as unfortunate or even sad, but for me they are only problematic if they aren’t under control somehow.

Having thousands of unsorted (and effectively unknown, since most of my recordings sound like fresh ideas when I finally get back to them) ideas, songs, writings, and potential projects just sitting in masses, with generic names like “DM420511” and “C0000033.VOC” is the very picture of untapped potential. But once I go through and revisit them, naming and sorting them into my ever-growing folders titled “non-fiction”, “movies, shows, and screenplays”, “songs”, and so on…it changes their nature in a key way. (See the pic above for an idea of my main folder categories. [Note: “Animal noises” is actual recordings of animal noises, out in the woods…not me making various animal noises. Just for the record.])

It’s one thing to wave vaguely at 8,000+ recordings and say, “There are tons of song ideas in there that I’ve recorded over the years”–and not be able to effectively point at an actual example of such a thing, because all the song ideas are buried in piles 100-deep or deeper with all sorts of other ideas, all in the exact same brown paper packaging. It’s a very different thing¬† to point to a “songs’ folder that has dozens of ideas sorted into genres, albums, and type (i.e., lyrics vs full-on recordings, finished ideas vs. snippets).

Of course, it’s a different thing again to actually get all those ideas manifested into completed things that I put out into the world, but I don’t mind the slow-and-steady approach. I’m taking a long-game view of all this. Which is fine, as long as progress is being made.

The plan at this point is to continue sorting through the masses of backlogged “Creative” files, in a quest to ferret out all my notes on my main ongoing screenplay projects. (Because I have been using the excuse of not having all those notes together as a way to avoid finishing those projects for years now.) And while I slog my way through them–which is actually really fun to do, to the point of feeling indulgent, as I mentioned earlier–I am working on putting the machinery in place to actually get my ideas into production as the sorting gets finished up.

And listening to the ideas themselves, knowing all the things that I have waiting for me as I take my efforts to the next level, really fuels my energy for getting things in place to make sure I can start making more of my outrageous dreams come true.

I might share a small sample of what I’ve been mining from my voice recording archives; I’m not sure. Most of it is rough, by its nature. And I have a habit of thinking things are great that I later think are really dumb. Which actually is one nice thing about the fact that most of my ideas have sat dormant for years…I’ve had time to grow up some and now can see many of them as the crap they are. :-)

I know I’ve gone on a lot about this, but don’t worry, I’ll go on more about it later. My voice recorder has been such a huge and integral part of my creative process for so long, that I think it’s important to let people know about the potential of using one religiously. And I’ve been learning more lately about how the use of the tool, and my freeflow method of capturing things, has paid creative dividends over the years.

Until recently, it’s been hard to discuss the so-called benefits, because it really seemed like my recordings were getting the best of me. But I have knocked out a tremendous amount of them in the past year, and can now see a time where they might all be at least named and sorted, if not yet transcribed and fully realized.

Once they’re sorted and assessed, they can be dealt with in an intelligent and informed way. I’ll know just how many songs there are, and what type. I’ll have all the notes gathered for my screenplay ideas. I’ll have a list of all the stand-up jokes I have in draft form. And literally hundreds of other ideas will be corralled, and ready to be tamed completely.

It might sound like only a slightly-better mega-pile of unfinished stuff to you, but to me it sounds like heaven.