Five reasons a voice recorder is a screenwriter’s best friend

Record ideas as soon as you have them. We think we won’t forget, but the truth is we do. If you have your ideas recorded somewhere, your brain will give you more… if you never do anything with the ideas you have, eventually you stop having them. It’s important to record your ideas as soon as you have them, ubiquitous capture is a key step to personal organization and productivity.

1. Work Anywhere

I’m writing this blog from the driver’s seat of my car. Well, kind of. Actually, I’m using a voice recorder (a Sony ICD PX-333 if you’re a nerd). I use it to record a sentence every time I hit a stoplight.

Voice recorders free you from having to carry a notepad and pen, or worry about battery life on your smartphone. You can work in a car, in the dark, in bed, in someone else’s bed (just ask for permission on that last one).

2. Recorders free the creative process from the mechanics of handwriting (nothing is faster)

While it’s true that the physical act of moving pen on paper can unlock ideas, often times the blank page, the pressure of a “permanent” medium, and the pressures of transcribing later can prevent us from committing a thought to paper. I’ve found that voice recorders often help screenwriters overcome psychological resistance to working. Anything that helps in that area is invaluable.

People talk at 150 wpm, most can barely type 60. You can easy transfer files to Evernote or a hard drive, and if you’re really lazy, Dragon Naturally Speaking (or similar) will transcribe them for you.

3. Remove resistance that blocks creativity.

People are lazy. Like really lazy, and the subconscious mind is even lazier. If the brain senses even the slightest obstacle to doing something, it’ll try to get out of it. That’s where voice recorders win out over other solutions – handwriting is tedious and you have transcribe. iPhone apps can record sound, but it’s a few more steps to begin recording/playback. You wouldn’t think that the extra second or two would make a difference in deciding whether to capture an idea, but it really does.

4. Talk to yourself.

With a recorder, you can be assured of someone listening to everything you say, even if it’s just you. I’ve asked rhetorical questions, recorded my to-do list. I’ve ordered myself to stay productive, encouraged myself to persevere, and dropped many an unhelpful literary suggestion when I was too drunk to use a pen.

5. Make it easier to play.

Voice recorders make screenwriting more of a direct connection from inspiration to result. If you’re good at improv, you can do both sides of a conversation and generate entire scenes in the time it takes to record them. Audio editing apps like Audition can help you create an entire screenplay with an accurate running time without ever actually writing a word.


Regardless of whether you get a recorder or not (seriously, do) the lesson to be drawn from this is to maximize your available time.  A lot of beginner writers will say something along the lines of “I will write from 8am to 12 noon,” and if they miss that window they’ll discard the idea of writing that day entirely.  This leads to procrastination, and procrastination is the grave that opportunity is buried in. It’s not about having the perfect amount of time to write in, it’s about making the most of every moment you have. Get in the habit of recording your ideas. It’s good practice, and you’ll have something to develop when you finally sit down to write.

Published by Matt Lazarus

WGA screenwriter offering in-depth writing instruction, notes, critique, and assistance.

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