A swipe file is for days like today. I'm writing for six places, it's early, the coffee hasn't kicked in yet. I have to get my creative juices flowing. If I had a swipe file, it'd help me out while my mind is still in Zombie land.
You can create your own swipe file to help generate ideas and inspiration very easily. You can use your computer to do it on or offline, or you can create a physical swipe file, or both. Create it in Google notebook, an office document, or a shoebox under your bed. Whatever works for you.
A swipe file is a place to put all kinds of ideas you like, to look back at for further inspiration later. You should probably create different sections, to help organize the clippings you'll save. If you keep your eyes open through the course of your normal day, you'll find lots of things to put in it.
Possible sections might be.....
Appealing Offers and Deals
Images that made Me Look
Videos that Made Me Watch
Songs I listened to 100 times
Inspiring Poetry and Lyrics
How to Outlines
Related to My Blog
You can also create different files for subjects that really interest you. Your own swipe file can have anything you want in it. It will become highly personal, and linked to the kinds of writing you do. A Steampunk fiction writer might have a file called "Inventions that Would be Cool", and a seamstress who blogs about costumes might have a file called "Costume Ideas" .
A swipe file is intended as a kick-start to your own writing. By collecting examples of what inspires or moves you, you may have examples of what draws peoples attention. You can learn a lot about what works and what doesn't by taking a look at a good idea, and figuring out what makes it interesting or useful.
A swipe file can also be very useful as a way to mix and match components of great ideas. Say you have a great article idea, and you don't know what you want to call it. You may be able to look at your page of title ideas that are totally unrelated to your subject, and find catchy elements you can reuse in a new way.
It should be noted that a swipe file is intended to help you get inspiration and ideas to do your own work from. Nothing you're copying to look at later should be plagiarized or used inappropriately. It's just a way to more deliberately try to learn from other people who are good at writing. It will also be useful to make note of where you found things you decided to clip into your file, in case you decide you want to use it as a direct credited resource.
If you work with other writers, it can also be interesting to set up swipe files that can be shared with one another. Different people will stumble across different things that may be useful to others as well as them. Since we all have different experiences and perspectives, each person will notice and save different kinds of things. Sharing swipe files may be a way for writers to share the components of effective writing with each other. Using Google Notebooks or Docs would be one easy way to do this and keep the information accessible to everyone online.