Thought Improvement
Thought Improvement

Creativity Improvement: How To Create And Catch A Shooting Thought

A shooting thought.

Shooting thoughts present you with opportunities.

The Aha! Have you ever found yourself trying to find a solution or solve a problem and the answer evades you? Then, out of the blue, you have an ‘Aha!’ moment and figure it out.

The Agh! Then, if don’t act upon your thought or write it down for later, you just as quickly forget it. Agh!

Shooting Thoughts: We’ve all heard of shooting stars, the celestial objects that blaze through the night sky for a short amount of time before disappearing. In many ways, shooting thoughts are like this: there for a moment, gone the next.

What If? What if there was an easier way to deal with problems or challenges without having to wait to come up with a solution?

What If? What if we knew how to capture and harness these fleeting thoughts?

What If? What if I told you that our most fleeting ideas, as elusive as shooting stars, could be not just captured but manufactured?

Before the Aha! In this article, I will discuss a method to allow you to create and capture shooting thoughts. We will discuss the structure, the process, and the outcome of becoming aware, recognizing, and capturing your creative thoughts almost before they occur.

Opportunity is never lost; it always finds someone who is ready for it.

Questions Before Answers

  • What’s a shooting thought?
  • How can I be ready to catch shooting thoughts?
  • How can I become more creative by creating shooting thoughts?

Brief Overview

Audio In, Creativity Out: I’ll show you a simple system to create and capture thoughts, ideas, insights, etc. 

Audio In: Begin by choosing a focal point – in this example, willpower – and pool a variety of resources around this topic. Then, fully immerse yourself in relevant audio content from platforms like YouTube, Audible, podcasts, TED Talks, and more.

Creativity Out: While absorbing this material, voice record your ideas and thoughts via an open Google Doc file.

Walking The Walk, Talking The Talk

These Thoughts Are Made For Walking: I walk every morning and save my ideas and thoughts. You can also use the same system as you hike, sit, relax, or work out on a stationary treadmill or spin biking. This method is not recommended if you are actively moving, such as driving, running, or outdoor biking.

“The opportunity of a lifetime must be seized within the lifetime of the opportunity.”

What Is A Shooting Thought? Shooting thoughts are the shooting stars in our mind – brief and frequently sparking insightful or brilliant moments of creativity and ideas. They are unexpected and often unrelated to what we are doing, working on, or thinking about at the very moment.

A Thoughtful Warning – Fast In, Faster Out: Both shooting stars and shooting thoughts arrive unexpectedly and disappear just as quickly. You need to stay alert and prepared to seize the moment.

How To Have More Shooting Thoughts: While catching a shooting thought is valuable, how much more powerful would it be if you could actively create shooting thoughts instead? 

What’s The Best Way To Have A Good Idea? According to Linus Pauling, “The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas.” 

How To Create A Shooting Thought

The Shooting Thought Formula – The Creativity Cycle: Here is your simple system for creating and catching shooting thoughts and ideas anytime.

The Structure – The Creativity Cycle

Similar To The Cycle Of Water: The Creativity Cycle is a systematic process to identify a topic, conceptualize it, process it, record it, and begin again. Imagine the water cycle, except the application is for your thoughts, ideas, creativity, etc. 

The Structure – The Creativity Cycle – Steps

The Source: I will use audio files as an example throughout this discussion, but it can be any collection of content in any format.

How Is The Creativity Cycle Similar To The Cycle Of Water? Like the water cycle, the Creativity Cycle follows a simple four-step process. 

1. Collection – Identify The ‘Body Of Water’: The Creativity Cycle starts by recognizing and accumulating the desired subject you wish to explore – your reservoir of information. It’s identifying and gathering from the ‘pool of information’ you select. Your pool is a source of specific playlists of topics such as willpower, procrastination, habits, recipes, historical events, audiobooks, etc.

Lake Willpower, If You Will…: We will continue using the willpower example in this essay. In our case, your smartphone holds the audio files regarding harnessing willpower, serving as the body of water. 

2. Energy – The ‘Body Of Water’ Transforms Into Sound: Your thirst for knowledge and desire to learn and understand is the energy that captures the audio information through your headphones, causing it to transform – much like water vapor – into audio waves, which then help to form the foundation for your ideas.

3. Condensation – ‘Cloud Of Thoughts Formation’ From Audio: Just as in the water cycle, after water vapor rises, condensation occurs, and then clouds form. Your audio playlist is cognitively analyzed and processed, mixing, mingling, and merging into your existing knowledge. This interaction increases understanding, comprehension, and awareness of your selected topic: willpower.

4. Precipitation – Creativity ‘Reigns’: The fourth step happens as these new insights merge with your existing knowledge. This synthesized information completes its cycle from information to knowledge to creativity. Essentially, your new ideas from your clouds of knowledge, are ready to rain – or in this case, to be voice-recorded into your smartphone. Creativity downpours from your mind and is then recorded.

Rinse And Repeat: These droplets of information become part of your knowledge base, your body of water, prepared to initiate the Creativity Cycle repeatedly. Each time, the new, added data and the new, added information merge with your existing knowledge base, increasing your wisdom, ideas, and creativity.

Now that we understand how the Creativity Cycle works, let’s delve into…

How Do You Catch A Shooting Thought?

Immediately! The key to catching a shooting thought is to act swiftly! As soon as you encounter something intriguing, informative, valuable, or insightful that sparks an idea, immediately record your thoughts into a specific Google document.

“If you don’t execute a great idea, it dies an unnecessary death.”

Fast Thought: When I hear something interesting, educational, valuable, worth exploring, or insightful, or if the audio creates a spark of an idea, I immediately dictate my thought directly into a specific Google document.

The Process Components

Catch a Shooting Thought

The Process Step 1 – Audio In, Creativity Out

The Mechanics Of Sparking Creativity – From Data To Information To Knowledge To Wisdom To Creativity

Immersion – Easy Victories: Listening to audio and recording your creative ideas works great when walking, hiking, riding a stationary bike, or using a treadmill. Easy victories often amplify the sweetness of success.

Band On The Run: This is how the Creativity Cycle works at this stage. Use an armband to connect your phone to your body, stationary bike, or treadmill. If you are walking, instead of placing the smartphone armband on your bicep, place it on your wrist. I simply move the armband to my wrist because it is easier to access quickly.

Developing Consistency: Consistency means practicing regularly over a long period of time. While there are no shortcuts to creative mastery, easy victories are along the path to travel.

Combining Commitment: Commitment involves means making a conscious decision to dedicate yourself to creative mastery (creativity is a skill that can be taught, learned, improved, and mastered). Commitment becomes more enjoyable and easier when you combine commitment with something you are already doing — in this case, working out. When you simply add listening to audio during your normally scheduled workout time, commitment becomes another on the list of easy victories.

“Creativity is connecting things that seem unrelated.” – Steve Jobs

Creativity Is Connecting The Dots: Catching your shooting thoughts results in having more ‘dots.’ The more dots you have results in, the more possible connections. The greater number of connections you have, the more creative you become.

Creative Mastery: Many people believe that creativity is random sparks, presenting only when the spark decides to ignite. But creativity is a skill that can be taught, learned, improved, and mastered so that you create the sparks, and you control the ignition.

Creativity Is Like Water: Creativity is just as formless as water; it simply awaits guidance, or a shape, or a structure to direct and shape and direct its power.

The Flow Of Creativity: Imagine a powerful river cutting its path to the ocean. The river is the flow, the force and energy to be directed. The river banks are the structure that channel and coalesce the flow into an unstoppable force.

The Paradox – Structure Creates Freedom: Ironically, if you desire unbounded creativity, the structure you apply creates your freedom.

Structure Catches Shooting Thoughts: If you want to be creative, apply the structure of this article to catching your own shooting thoughts.

The Process Step 2 – Mining

How Does The Catch A Shooting Thought System Work?

TheCreativity Cycle Is Essentially Gold Mining: When you mine for gold, you have to explore and identify the land, process the raw material, then screen and separate the material from the gold. 

Not Everything Has Value: In gold mining, a capture rate of at least two ounces or more per ton of material processed is considered a minimum for many operations. Two ounces of gold per ton, which equates to just 0.01% of everything processed, has tremendous value. You have to process the material effectively and efficiently. 

“Gold is where you find it. But you have to look in the right place.”

Seeking Nuggets: You are seeking those creative nuggets. You may process and learn a lot of information. 

Finding Gold Flakes: Sometimes, you don’t find the large gold nuggets you are seeking. You may find many smaller flakes of ideas. You soon determine that whether flakes or nuggets, it is all gold. You combine your ideas, insights, and thoughts and create another nugget.

Turning Flakes Into Nuggets: One way to organize and combine the gold flakes is to tag them. I might have an idea that has potential, but I’m not sure at this very moment about how to use it. I simply do the following; I state the concept of the idea — for example, #Creativity — then I add the additional hashtag #HowCanIUse.

When I’m ready, I simply go through my notes and search for the hashtags. I have hundreds and hundreds of #HowCanIUse tags throughout my notes. Many may never be used. It’s akin to going to your local grocery store to buy cheddar cheese and seeing feta cheese. You may wonder #HowCanIUse feta cheese, which is something you can dictate and store for later.

The Process Step 3 – The Go Deep, Go Wide Immersion Technique

Go Deep

“Why do you rob banks? Because that’s where the money is.” Willie Sutton (often attributed to the infamous American bank robber, but more likely created by a journalist).

The Willie Sutton Strategy: Just like Willie Sutton supposedly targeted banks because that’s where money was. He asked himself, “Why look all over town when you go to just one place, the bank, your bank, and find what you want – and lots of it?”

Be Like Willie? Aside from possible jail time, consolidating your efforts at the bank is a great strategy. You can use a similar approach to finding creative thoughts. 

How Do Thoughts Enter Your Mind?: Focus on concentrated learning by researching a desired subject, then gather your best ideas in one place so you can easily find and access them.

Immerse Yourself: You assemble quality information about your desired topic and immerse yourself in the content.

Immersion Formula – Go Deep, Go Wide: After selecting the topic of willpower, I next go to Audible and identify books. I start with Audible because I want a deep understanding of the topic. In this example, I found several with stellar reviews, and each audiobook was typically 5-9 hours long. Since I listen to these resources about an hour a day while walking, this creates a substantial working foundation for a week or two.

Digging Deeper: I identified many books, including, including these two:

Title: Willpower – Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength
By: Roy F. Baumeister, John Tierney
Length: 9 hrs and 6 mins

Title: The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It
By: Dr. Kelly McGonigal
Length: 8 hrs and 20 mins

Why Do I ‘Go Deep’ First? The author Kelly McGonigal has a Ph.D. from Stanford and has been featured in TED Talks. What better place to start? I wanted to hear her analysis and understanding of willpower from the basics to validating and research studies. Going deep provides a broad framework and knowledge for me.

Go Wide

Going Wide: After my deep plunge, I am conversant on willpower. And I am ready to broaden my knowledge further. Going wide incorporates the concepts of deliberate practice. Deliberate practice involves structured and focused efforts to improve performance by targeting weaknesses and pushing the boundaries of one’s current abilities.

Going Wide – The Author: Next, I go to YouTube and find 10+ podcasts and lectures with the author of the Audible book. 

Why So Many Author Interviews? I select at least ten videos because interviewers or podcast hosts will ask different questions. Additionally, the author may give longer or more thorough answers or use other examples. This enhances my knowledge.

Going Wide – The Topic: Next, I search for directly tangential information on willpower, such as TedTalk lectures, college professors, and other notable experts in the willpower field.

Why Go Wide? Different experts will have different opinions, theories, beliefs, and ideas. I want to challenge what I learned by going deep and augmenting my knowledge.

Go Deep Again

I Listen To The Audible Book Again. Why? I Repeat – Why? This step is based on the concept of spaced repetition. Spaced repetition is a learning technique that involves reviewing and revisiting information at specific intervals over time. The main idea behind spaced repetition is to retain information in your long-term memory. It is based on the observation that the brain remembers information better when it is encountered repeatedly at spaced intervals rather than in rapid succession. This second listening employs the learning technique that involves reviewing information at various intervals over time to enhance long-term retention and understanding.

Competing Signals: Growing up, in a time before cable (hard to believe there was such a time) and while living near an Air Force base, I came to learn about competing TV signals. A plane would fly overhead, and the TV signal would hit our rooftop antenna, then a second later, the same TV signal would bounce off the airplane and down to our antenna again. We received two signals of the same broadcast, just a second apart, causing us to interpret the TV show differently, and forcing us to be creative in analyzing what we missed.

Audible – Honing in on the Signal: By listening to the Audible book again, usually two to five weeks after hearing it for the first time, I heard many, many subtle comments that I just missed during my first hearing. I am receiving two signals, at different intervals, and this causes me to think about the topic differently. I was now more knowledgeable about willpower from this author and other experts.

A Conceptual Summary: Creative mastery requires three skills:

  1. Immersion: This means surrounding yourself with the skill or topic you are trying to master. In this essay, you achieve immersion by listening to audiobooks, podcasts, lectures, etc.
  2. Commitment: Commitment means making a conscious decision to dedicate yourself to mastery. This means scheduling time, at regular intervals, to practice. This step becomes easier when you combine commitment with something you are already doing, working out.
  3. Consistency: Consistency means practicing regularly over a long period of time. While there are no shortcuts to creative mastery, there are easy victories to achieve.

Creative Mastery

The Process Step 4 – Thought Banking

How To Catch A Shooting Thought

“The faintest ink is better than the strongest memory.” Chinese Proverb

James And The Giant Idea: I remember reading about James Altucher, a well-known entrepreneur, author, and podcaster, who advocates a method he calls ‘idea generation’ or 10 Ideas per Day.

The concept is simple: he writes down 10 ideas every day. These ideas can be about anything: business, writing, technology, personal improvement, or even random thoughts. Not all ideas have to be groundbreaking or revolutionary; the goal is to get into the habit of thinking creatively and coming up with new concepts regularly.

I said to myself, “Great idea. I can do this. I will do this!”

Hmm, Idea Generation Is Harder Than You Think: I struggled to get a list started. I would come up with one idea, then the tank was empty.

The Knee Bone Is Connected To The Shin Bone: Ultimately, I developed a way to expand on my ideas by asking myself, “What is this connected to technique?” I would start with one idea, and then ask myself several other questions about it, including:

  • What is next?
  • What would make this better?
  • What would make this worse?
  • What is this related to?
  • Is this topic or idea even worth doing?

Thought Banking: I started a rudimentary version of this system around 2007, shortly after Google offered its document feature Google Docs. I simply created a file called ‘Shooting Thoughts’ and deposited my ideas via dictation. It has continually evolved and improved.

That’s A Lot Of Banks: Whenever I complete approximately 50-125 pages of thoughts, ideas, things to look up, etc. captured in my Google document, I create the next vault. This thought banking method now has multiple branch locations. My latest storage document is creatively called Shooting Thoughts #53.

The Most Powerful Component Of Thought Banking: I soon discovered an enhancement to the process of audio in, thinking about it, and creativity out (thought banking).

Synthesis And Curation: You could listen to an audio track that discusses the “four most important steps for willpower” and then just repeats the four author-generated items, but is that really the best way to learn new material?

Instead of just listening to the content, I began to comment and ask myself questions about it:

  • How are these ideas similar to other concepts?
  • Are these four steps to willpower really the most important ones?
  • Are there other steps or applications that would be better?
  • Why would this particular author choose these four particular concepts?
  • How could these ideas affect my everyday life?

I found by synthesizing and curating the audio content, the quality of my notes drastically improved, which led to an increase in creativity.

An Additional Bonus – Minimizing The Effect Of The Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve: If you aren’t familiar with the concept, Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve explains the decline of memory retention over time. Essentially, the curve explains that memories weaken over time and the largest drop in retention rates occurs quickly after learning something new. Additionally, we’re more likely to remember things that have meaning.

So what does this mean for you? If you want to learn something — and remember it — you need to participate in something called ‘spaced learning.’ This involves reviewing the material again after a while (perhaps a day, a few days, or a week). This makes it much more likely that you’ll actually learn and absorb the material presented, rather than just forgetting about it a short time later.

What Next?

This Has Been The Shooting Thought System v.15: I still refine and improve my method and system as soon as needed. I typically add a few minor improvements a month. Most of the recent updates I have created now involve using additional external actions to refine my inputs into Google Docs. The version you are now reading is v15.

The Shooting Thought System v.17: I am just completing v17, which is a significant process upgrade. It incorporates a more robust and comprehensive technique to create and capture ideas. It includes ways to integrate and refine research while recording your thoughts.

I present a method to catch your shooting thoughts when you are doing any physical motion, such as running or biking. Software suggestions will simplify the recording of your creative ideas, adjunct software to play while listening to Audible books and podcasts, a simplified indexing system to utilize, and much more.

Click here to request more information on how to access the latest “How To Create And Catch A Shooting Thought” update.


  • When do you think you’re most creative? Is there a way that you can easily record your thoughts during this time?
  • Is there something you’re interested in learning more about but haven’t found the time to do it? Perhaps listening to an audiobook while working out could be your key to get in the door.

You’re Ready to Catch Shooting Thoughts!

Let’s reinforce this creativity process to ensure you get the most out of your own thoughts:

  1. Audio In, Creativity Out: Choose highly-rated and informative sources (audiobooks, TED Talks, lectures, etc.) to listen to. Have an audio recorder (like a smartwatch or smartphone) of your choice available to record your thoughts.
  2. Mining: Go through your recorded thoughts and pick out the best ones (gold nuggets), or ones that might have future value (gold flakes) when combined with others.
  3. The Go Deep, Go Wide Immersion Technique: Find other related resources that can help you gain an even deeper and wider understanding of your chosen topic.
  4. Thought Banking: Set up a Google Doc or similar document where you can bank all your best thoughts, ideas, and revelations.

Thought Points: The key to success with catching shooting thoughts is to fully commit to the process:

  • Select an area of interest and compile a rich set of resources, from books to lectures to podcasts. Go deep with lengthy, authoritative works, then go wide and expand varied perspectives.
  • Engage actively, even physically, through activities like walking, biking, or hiking. The motion keeps the mind alert while enabling hands-free recording.
  • Voice insights immediately into a thought repository to capture creativity in the moment. 

Your Thoughts May Vary

Thought Improvement welcomes your constructive appreciation comments and invites you to share your perspectives, ideas, and suggestions. Together, we can all improve our thoughts. Click here to Contact Us.