Capture the Idea
Many years ago, a well-known published author said to me, “I had rather write a note on the cuff of my blouse than to lose a good idea.”
Wow! That’s profound. That comment stuck with me.
Capture the idea at the moment it comes! I guess that’s why I have so many file cabinets in my home. I can hardly bear to throw away all those scraps of ideas! And while that’s a good place to store old manuscripts (and new ones), and ideas, and plain old stuff, you can’t very well carry a file cabinet around with you. So what to do?
Notebooks! Use notebooks! Or your computer; or your iPad; or your iPhone. Use notebooks like an artist uses a sketchbook.
If your strategy is to store your thoughts and ideas in the computer, make doubly sure you have a special file for them. Treat them with utmost respect.
While I definitely started out with what I termed my idea notebooks, these days I use both physical notebooks and my computer.
A Writer’s Laboratory
I still have on my bookshelf two small loose-leaf notebooks that I filled when I first began to write seriously. One is yellow, the other is blue. Yes, there they are in all their glory. In them, I wrote snippets of overheard conversations; names I felt were different or interesting; town names that caught my fancy, descriptions of sounds, sights, smells, and then there were the cute and funny things my kids did and said. They created for me a writer’s laboratory as I recorded their actions and conversations.
One entry from a winter day goes like this:
Clouds of fog were surprised to find themselves held captive in the night by the icy hands of the frigid air. Countless millions of droplets, soft and fat with moisture, were squeezed in the icy grip, then transformed into exquisite crystallized formations and designs. Each was individually fastened with miracle adhesive powers to every tree branch, every blade of dead brown grass, every strand of fence wire, in a sort of dress-up, flocking occasion. The first glow of dawn revealed that nothing had escaped the sparkle-tinsel effect. It later turned to fiery sparkles in the bold winter sunshine.
Stop – Write It Down
Insights and perceptions will flit through your mind like a quick firefly, lighting for a brief moment then gone forever into the darkness. Oh, you think you’ll remember that little idea. Or that reaction. Or that snippet you heard. Guess what? You’re kidding yourself. You will not. Stop whatever you are doing at that moment and write it down.
Keep small notebooks in your purse or pocket, by the bed, in the car and in the john. Will you be laughed at? You can pretty well count on it. But when the novel comes out, when the work is published, and it contains the content that you hurriedly wrote write down (sometimes almost impolitely) you will be forgiven.
And even if you aren’t, you shouldn’t really care. Because you are only doing the work that is required of a serious novelist.
Ideas are gold. Ideas are the raw material with which a novelist works every minute of every day. Treat them with utmost respect and they will serve you well.
Don’t rely on the cuff of your blouse (or shirt as the case may be)! Buy notebooks and fill them! Or keep your iPad close at hand and fill it. Whatever works best for you – just do it!
In the days to come, you’ll be so thankful you did.
I’ve launched a YouTube video series that I call (for obvious reasons!) The Writing Life. These episodes reveal the ins and outs, and the ups and downs of a published author.
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