Lincoln's Scraps of Paper

How to capture good ideas for later use? If Iowa Senator James F. Wilson's report of an 1863 conversation with Abraham Lincoln is accurate, Honest Abe had an excellent method. As Lincoln purportedly describes it:

... This caused me to examine and re-examine the subject. I gave it a great deal of thought; I examined and studied it from every side; indeed, it was seemingly present with me continually. Often an idea about it would occur to me which seemed to have force and make perfect answer to some of the things that were said and written about my actions. I never let one of those ideas escape me, but wrote it on a scrap of paper and put it in that drawer. In that way I saved my best thoughts on the subject, and, you know, such things often come in a kind of intuitive way more clearly than if one were to sit down and deliberately reason them out.

To save the results of such mental action is true intellectual economy. It not only saves time and labor, but also the very best material the mind can supply for unexpected emergencies. Of course, in this instance, I had to arrange the material at hand, and adapt it to the particular case presented. But that was an easy task compared with what immediate original composition of such a paper would have been. ...

(from "Some Memories of Lincoln" by "Ex-Senator James F. Wilson", in the North American Review, v. 163, n. 481 (December 1896), on pp. 670-671, as per [1] or [2]; and cf. IdeasLikeSparks (1999-09-04), ThinkingOutLoud (2003-02-20), Mind Like Water (2011-12-24), Team of Rivals (2012-01-07), ...) - ^z - 2012-01-21