When I was sixteen my Dad put me on a train to New York City.

I was on a journey to find out what my aptitudes were. I must have had a decent aptitude for following directions and orientation, for, while it was a bit daunting, I found the address I was given amongst the maze of streets and buildings.

I arrived at the Johnson O’Conner institute early in the morning, and seven brain frazzling hours later they sat me down in a comfy chair and explained their findings.

I won’t bore you with all the details, but according to their results it was a miracle that I ever found the place. I had one of the lowest spatial abilities scores they had ever seen. They implored me never to attempt any career that had to do with building or spatial understanding – I would be a complete failure and thoroughly unsatisfied with life if I did.

(Side note: while it is true that I am slow, and scratch my head a lot when it comes to spatial intensive projects, I find them very rewarding. I’ve built numerous house additions, barns, and two houses. I also get half my income from teaching Orientation and Mobility to blind people … I guess they would say that is like the blind leading the blind :). But I do enjoy it, and I have a lot of empathy for my students since I also struggle with the skills that they are trying to learn. And they don’t know that I don’t have any aptitude for what I’m teaching them.)

The good news from the test was that I also got one of the highest scores they had ever seen in a category.

Oh good! It was true, I had received quite a blow, being the worst at something and all, but now they were going to build me back up. Not just a high score … one of the highest. So what was this aptitude waiting for me to understand and shepherd into some kind of greatness.

I was rich in Ideaphoria!!!! Wow!!!

Well, what did that mean? It depends on who you ask. Ask my wife and she’ll tell you it means that I walk into a room and wonder why I’m there. It means I stare into cupboards. It means I drive down roads daydreaming and then wonder where I am. It means, while having a conversation with someone, I might say “hold that thought,” and then quickly jot down an idea that popped into my head so I won’t forget it later. It means I leave for work and reach over to get my breakfast goody that isn’t there, because I left it right next to our front door, purposefully set in a place where I wouldn’t forget it.

But, the way I like to think of it, is that it helps me to make my Orientation and Mobility lessons fun and creative. It helps me to build cool stuff. It makes life interesting. It helps me to come up with material for writing. (another side note: In all fairness, my wife would agree with the way I like to look at it also.)

So, writing requires ideas. And whether they come quickly to you or whether they are laboriously hatched, we must get them before they wisp away to nothing.

I thought I would share some of the ways I gather my Ideaphoria and then in another post, God willing, I’ll share some of my methods on how I organize it all.

First, the only judgement I recommend you make on your ideas is to make sure they are in line with the ways of God, that He would approve of them.

Judgments of quality are something different entirely – is this a good enough idea? Will readers like it? etc. If you worry too much about these aspects of your ideas you might squash the process. But, if your ideas come at you like a constant flood, well then, maybe a little more culling is in order.

Second, is the whole issue of ideas that don’t pertain to the project at hand, but still you really like them. I say, write them down quickly and then get back to whatever your current project is. I don’t like to lose those fun gems. A warning here though. When you have a high flow of ideas, you might also end up with a whole bunch of unfinished projects. This is one of the reasons why many authors plot out there stories before they begin to write, to make sure the story itself is write-worthy, and to help keep the author on track.

Okay, now, on to some fun tangibles.

aleather3The leather journal. Not fake leather. Not cheap. I’m thinking of the kind that says quality. The kind that you like to smell each time you pick it up. My heart beats a little faster and I feel like rubbing my hands together when I think about these beauties. (note: cheap ones work also, don’t let a cheap one stop you)

The journal helps me not to be bound by time or place.

Let me explain. I consider my idea gathering to be an important and integral part of writing. So if I’m driving to a mobility lesson and I gather an idea or two, plop them down in my journal, and continue on, I was writing! If I spend the whole hour drive brainstorming – I was writing! If I paint the living room while I brainstorm, and my journal lays open on the shelf waiting for the doozies – I was writing! This can be extremely liberating, because it is always hard to find time to write.

Which leads to place. Many people feel that they must have the right environment to get the creative juices flowing. I find that it definitely helps (hence the cool leather journal creates part of that environment), but if you must have the perfect spot to write in, then you are confined to the times when you have access to that place.

At our old house I had an amazing writing space, with bookshelves, swords, drawings, helmets, scripture, a wrap around desk built in to three walls, an adjoining secret passage and room, awesome mood lighting … it was really cool. I loved writing in there. But, we moved and I haven’t had the time or resources to replicate anything like it. So I make the best with what I have, pray to be content in all things, and enjoy whatever mood writing space I can create. I find that having a mobile frame of mind for ideaphoria and sit down writing gives me much more time to actually write because I can fit it in whenever.

Along came the iPad. I still love my journal, but my iPad has taken over in many ways. It’s just as mobile, but much more versatile. I bought a bluetooth keyboard/case to go with it.

I attack my ideaphoria and plotting episodes with a few different tools. I’ll share them with you:


apagesPages: $9.99 from the App Store. Very easy and intuitive Word processor. It is my main journal.




athoughtsiThoughtsHD: $9.99 from the App Store. I love this app! It’s a visual mind mapping tool. It’s my main plotting tool.




aindexcardIndex Card: $4.99 from the App Store. I enjoy using this one sometimes. From the website: “Index card is a corkboard writing app that makes it easy to capture, organize, and compile your ideas. Whether you are an author, screenwriter, or academic researcher, Index Card can help you become a more efficient, organized writer.”



astoryistappStoryist: $9.99 from the App Store. From the website: “Storyist lets you sketch out a story using index cards and then refine it with customizable plot, character, and setting sheets. When you’re ready to put words on the page, Storyist can even display your index cards next to your manuscript as you write.” I use this mainly for writing.



Enjoy the pre-writing process of ideaphoria. In fact, try not to think of it as pre-writing but writing itself. You’ll be doing it before you begin the book and all the way through until your manuscript is finished! Even before I sit down to write my next chapter, I almost always have the basic idea played out in my head and jotted down in notes, so that when I sit down to the keyboard I can start tapping away.

I’d love to hear what others do to generate, facilitate, and capture their flow of ideas for their stories.

Grace, peace and blessings to you.

In Jesus,Matt


  1. Hey Matt,
    I’m 18 and I just got my test results back from Johnson O’Connor today and just like you I had fairly low spatial awareness but an extremely high score in ideaphoria. She told me that it was one of the highest she had ever seen and was the 99th percentile. I loved your post and it is funny because I also keep a journal but it is mainly for keeping track of memories.
    I make TONS of “witty” jokes to friends, family, pretty much anyone I get the opportunity to. I also think that I am a good conversationalist because I can come up with a lot of interesting stuff to talk about. I am wondering if you have a similar experience. I am also wondering how much this has helped you with writing. Radio announcing for sports games is always something my friends have said I am good at and a career I would love to pursue so I’d also like to know your thoughts on that.
    Lemme know if you can help. If not, thanks for the post it was really cool!
    -A fellow ideas factory

    • Fascinating!!! Utterly fascinating!! I tell so many stories to my friends, family, and, well, whoever will listen, that sometimes the years go by and the stories start to feel sort of unreal or dream like. How exciting it is to hear of your journey to the fantastical land of the Johnson O’Conner institute.

      Did you physically travel to New York City or is it now a virtual experience?

      I sure would like to hear some more details. I find this particular memory a fond one, because my Dad cared enough to send me, yet at the same time it feels a bit strange and even a ‘dangerous’ adventure. Of course, that’s what makes for good stories 🙂

      I do love to talk to people. But I don’t know if there is a relationship to that and ideaphoria.

      The ideaphoria could help you to find interesting things to discuss or postulate whether you’re doing a podcast, sermon, or sports announcing. But, I imagine you also must have an amazing memory, at least with those things that really interest you, and that is where we would diverge, and that is what would also make you an amazing announcer. While I would stutter and cause everyone listening to say things like, ‘poor guy,’ and ‘wow, did he ever miss his calling.’

      Thanks so much for taking the time to write me. Here’s a pretty cool podcast I found a few weeks ago. I enjoyed it so much i’ve Already listened to all of them. It’s not perfect or always Biblical, but I think you might find it encouraging:

  2. Hey Matt,

    I too went to the Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation but only Chicago. My dad drove me and my three older brothers our junior year of highschool. I am 18 now looking back a my aptitude’s sewing that I was was in 95th percentile of ideaphoria. I’m finishing up my first year of college trying to figure out what field I want to specialize in which is a very daunting task. I almost don’t even know where to start. I love connecting to people on a deeper level but I don’t know where that would fit in jobs wise. I would appreciate if you could send me any advice you have. Appreciate the post!

    • Wow! Another Ideaphorian from Johnson O’Connerville 🙂
      You’re right, trying to figure out what to do career wise is daunting. I’ve really been struck this week about our prayers and how they go up to our Great God and how He wants us to talk with him, and ask Him for wisdom, so I would definitely start there and stay there as you try to figure this out (Rev. 5:8, Rev. 8:3-4). I have personally found, since ideas are always popping into my head, that I like to do things that allow me the freedom to exercise that aptitude. And, I also enjoy downtime wherein I can daydream and ‘work’ on my more creative endeavors (like when I’m driving to and from work). So, how that has worked out for me jobs wise is that I have tried to pick jobs that interest me and then I look for ways to creatively implement ideas into my work. For instance: As an Orientation and Mobility Specialist, teaching the Blind and Visually Impaired, I always spend a good amount of time building relationship with my students (you phrased it as connecting to people on a deeper level). Everyone is so different, so finding out what interests and motivates them is really important, and then they also see that I really care about them and what interests them, especially when I incorporate those things into our lessons. Then, I have to figure out where they are with their travel and concept skills, how much stress they can handle, what environments would best suit them to learn in, when are they ready to go to the next level, what store might motivate them to try to find and travel to … and the list goes on and on. Then new technologies come out, like 3d printers and echolocation wristbands, and I assess them and how I might use them with my students. I got dually certified so that I can also be a Vision Teacher, teaching Braille and accessibility technology, interacting as a mediator and educator between my students, their parents, their teachers, and administrators, which also takes a lot of relationship building. Teachers don’t usually like outsiders coming into their classrooms and telling them they have to do this or they aren’t doing something correctly, so I work hard to earn their trust. That process can be really enjoyable and I think I use my ideaphoria aptitude a lot there also, showing them things I’m working on or trying out for students, asking their opinion while I’m iterating on an idea and letting them see into the world of my process (successes and failures). Well, this is getting kind of long, so I better wrap it up. Basically, I think Ideaphoria and connecting with people on a deeper level can be used across most jobs if you look for ways to make it happen. Of course some will be more suited to it than others, but if you research jobs that seem of interest to you, you could then interview people (or job shadow, or even intern) in that field to get a better idea. Just remember, one job/situation in that career path can be totally different than another, and you’ll be just amazed at how many niches there are within that same career. Well, I hope that helped some, Benjamin. I pray that God shows you the steps you should take, and the eyes to see and be thankful throughout the whole of its ups and downs 🙂


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *