The Happy Author’s Guild is filled with fantastic advice: pantsing versus plotting; how to feed in backstory; where to find inspiration. Today is my turn to impart a little bit of wisdom. I can’t take full credit for this wisdom because it was given to me by a wonderful creative writing instructor (and Anne Lamott also discusses it in her book “Bird by Bird”), but I think it is worth sharing.
This is my notebook. Just like some people feel naked without their cellphone or sunglasses, I carry my notebook with me everywhere. It’s a goal keeper, research tool, holder of random thoughts, and my most important creativity tool (other than my mind, of course).
Each week, I jot down my writing-specific ‘To-Do’ list which keeps me focused on the tasks to complete. I write down story ideas. When researching for stories, facts are entered in point form. I’ve even written entire chapters in this notebook.
Sometimes, when I’m running errands or while watching a soccer game, small details attract my attention. Perhaps it’s the way someone toys with their hair, the way a word is pronounced, or a name I haven’t heard before. Those details are written down too. These little bits and pieces may not amount to much; they might sit in the notebook and never be used. However, I’ve found that sometimes an obscure fact which I wrote down months ago may have a huge impact on an idea or story I’m currently working on.
There’s something special about a fresh journal besides the combination of the smell of the paper, the crisp pages, or the way in which the spine isn’t bent out of shape. It’s the promise of possibility. Anything can take shape on a fresh page. Characters are created. Situations arise. Words appear on a blank line and within a moment, there’s a sentence, a paragraph, or perhaps a scene.
Once you end up filling your notebook, you may end up with something that looks like this:
This is my old notebook. It’s battered, messy and in essence, well used. And yes, I use tabs, because this notebook doesn’t flow like a perfectly edited novel. This is writing in its rawest form, unfiltered and chaotic. I use tabs in an attempt to keep organized, so I know where my weekly to do list resides, or where different parts of the same story are placed. It looks like chaos, but it makes sense to me.
As many of my peers on this blog have stated, inspiration may come from many things and strike at any time. My advice is to be prepared and carry the tools you need, whether it’s in the form of a notebook, index cards, a voice recorder or an app on your cell phone.
What tool you use isn’t important. What you do with it is what counts.