Keep a Swipe File
The more complete your swipe files are, the more powerful your resource will be.
Keeps a swipe file. It’s just what it sound like – a file to keep track of the stuff you’ve swiped from others.
See something worth seatling? Put it in the swipe file. Need a little inspiration? Open up the swipe file.
Newspaper reports call this a “morgue file” – I like that nave even better. Your morgue file is where you keep the dead things that you’ll later reanimate in your work.
How can a swipe file help you improve your writing skills?If you want to grow as a writer, the easiest way to do that is to keep a swipe file. Professional writers use swipe files as a learning method to improve their writing. They study other people’s content and create a collection with proven examples. A swipe file helps you understand writing techniques as you can see how others write. It also provides templates for your own writing. A swipe file can even help you overcome writer’s block and save time, as it provides suggestions for sentence structure, dialogues, description of settings, facial features, mannerism, interesting anecdotes and much more. If something catches your attention, the chances are that it will have the same effect on others. For a long time, I kept on believing in the advice of reputed ‘writing gurus’ that if you read a lot and write a lot, and you’ll become a better writer. But it didn’t work. My writing was not improving fast enough. But when I started learning from other people’s writing, sometimes copying, other times imitating, yet another time structuring my sentences based on sentences that caught my attention, my skills improved at a much-exceeding rate.
Is that plagiarism?The exact definition of plagiarism is – the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own. While the purpose of a swipe file is to study techniques and templates and get inspirations and ideas other people writing will invoke. Since you can’t keep all you read in your head, you have to have a place where can go to later when you need it. You don’t copy other people’s writing, neither do you claim their ideas as your own. But you do use their prose to understand how to apply different writing techniques. Swiping is a legitimate and effective method to improve your writing skills, and to become a more persuasive and engaging writer.
How to organize your swipe file?Although you might start in a haphazard way, you need to organize your swipe files in such a way that makes it easy to find the guidance you need when you need it most. There are several ways to do that, and I have listed some below, but you need to select the ones which work best for you. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
- A scrapbook. cut and paste things into it
- Notebooks. Separate ones for separate categories such as metaphors, quotes, stories, etc.
- Folders. Chuck clippings, photocopies in it and organize in clear plastics sleeves.
- Reference cards. The writer Anne Lamott swears by it.
- Mobile phone. Take pictures and sort by using albums.
- Digital swipe files. I have started using Evernote which has an excellent search facility and easy to organize in categories
- Pinterest. You can create boards with different categories and save hundred of pins other people are sharing freely.
To make sure your ideas and inspirations don’t evaporate in thin air, have a trusted system for managing them. Swipe files are a great tool for that.
Take that little bit extra time at the end of each session (reading or writing) on filing so you can find what you need when you need it.
Besides, you will find that keeping swipe files is the most enjoyable activity you will engage in as a writer.