Story ideas can come from anything, anywhere, any time, and they don't always schedule themselves conveniently into one's daily routine. What do you do to grab them?
Someone over on a forum (The Phade, a site for writers and readers of m/m) asked about that, and it got me thinking that this is another one of those things there there's no one best method that everyone "should" use.
I've read in various places that writers "should" carry a notebook around at all times, and keep it on the nightstand when we're sleeping, so whenever an idea pops up we can write it down. I'm really awful at that sort of note-taking, though. And I rarely carry a purse, and my pants/shorts usually don't have pockets large enough or even at all, so experiments in the notebook direction have never worked for me, although I'm sure it's a perfect tool for a lot of other writers.
I remember when I first started "seriously" writing as a teenager, I was terrified of letting any story idea slip away. I was sure in the back of my mind, as many baby writers seem to be, that story ideas were rare creatures and that every one of them needed to be captured and preserved, or I'd Never Write Again, oh noes! :) As time went on, though, I realized that there are ideas and story seeds everywhere. Just about anything can trigger a story idea. They're not rare at all, and having "enough" ideas is the least of my worries.
Because another thing I eventually noticed is that taking observations of whatever and turning them into story ideas is a skill, and like most skill it responds well to practice. I was able to do it a little when I was young, and I got a bit better in a haphazard way in the next decade or two, but during the years when my medications prevented me from writing at all, I lost a lot of that skill. When I got back into writing later on, I had to work on seeing and developing story ideas all over again, although this time I was doing it more consciously. I'm much better at it now, and come up with a lot more ideas (and more toward the "cool" end of the spectrum than the "meh" end) than I did before my writing went on a multi-year hiatus.
To capture the ideas that are worth saving, what I ended up doing was creating a file on my HD, "IDEAS.DOC" for story ideas, and I have a duplicate on my laptop for when I'm travelling. That's the only place I record story ideas, though. I don't keep a notebook or scribble them down anywhere else. I don't keep a voice-activated tape recorder with me (which was an alternative to the notebook which was enthused about in a few books on writing), or anything else. When I get an idea for a plot or a character or a twist or puzzle or worldbuilding detail or funny bit or anything else, if I'm at the computer then I jot it down in my Ideas file. If I'm not, then I think about it for a bit, looking at it from all angles, trying to do a little development -- what kind of story would this idea fit into, what kind of character would get into that situation, or whatever -- and basically try to memorize it.
Keep in mind that I have a pretty horrible memory in some ways, so this isn't always successful. That's all right, though. Somehow I always seem to remember the ideas I'm really enthusiastic about, at least until I'm next at the keyboard. If the idea is still in my head at that point, it goes into my Ideas file. If it's not, then it escaped. Oh, well.
Because seriously, there really are story ideas everywhere. I don't need every single one that comes to me. I don't even particularly want every single one that comes to me. I already have more ideas in my file than I could possibly write about in the rest of my likely life; even if I never added another idea to the file, I'd still probably die with ideas unwritten, so I'm not going to stress out about missing a few new ones.
The problem isn't coming up with enough ideas; it's sorting out the best ideas. The really cool ones seem to stick with me long enough to get them down, and the rest of them I don't care about anyway.
Works for me.
What do you do?