Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Writing 101: What to Do with Your Ideas

Some of my best ideas come to me at the worst possible moments. I'm in the shower, I'm laying in bed, I'm stuck in traffic...and I'm getting great ideas. Entire scenes are unfolding, dialogue is racing through my mind. By the time I get the opportunity to sit down and start typing, I can no longer remember all those great ideas...and I just end up writing something else. Knowing what to do with your ideas may seem like simple, even silly advice, but if you don't find out you could end up cursing yourself later. 

Inspiration Knows No Boundaries

Creativity is a finicky muse. She appears without warning, and when she does she demands to be heard. You could be engaged in watching a TV show or movie, and suddenly your mind is no longer your own. It's inside your story, working out complex scenarios and imagining characters. You could be doing anything at all when creativity strikes, and that's why you've got to be prepared for it at all times

When you get any kind of idea for your book or your writing, write it down. Make a note of if. Whether the idea is good or bad doesn't matter. It may inspire something else when you come back to the idea, later. Not all ideas can be addressed in the moment they strike, and therein lies the problem. You might shove it aside, and tell yourself that you're going to think about it later. But by the time "later" comes around, you can't remember the idea anymore. When you have adequate time to look at your idea, then you decide if it's good or bad. 

Smartphone users have it easy, because they're already equipped with a note-taking device. When inspiration strikes, get out your device and use it as unobtrusively as you can to type in a few quick notes. You don't have to compose an entire paragraph; a few simple words ought to be enough to jog your memory. If you're doing it correctly, it's likely that no one but you will even understand your notes. Mine say things like "teacher talk, Rain English, test." That's a whole day of events, at least 2 pages of prose. It's not a huge interruption to jot something like that down with a phone. And if you don't have one (like me), keep a little notebook and a pencil handy. The journalist with the stubby pencil and spiral-bound notebook is an iconic image, and more's the pity that such things are no longer the norm. A tiny pad of paper and a pencil are fantastic tools in a number of situations, so throw it in your pocket before you miss out on your next great idea.

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  1. Ideas always seem to pop up at the moments you don't have time for it. I do have a smart phone, but I seem to stick with that small notebook in my handbag for some reason :)

  2. The notebook works just as well. I've got one, too!

  3. I still have a boring old cellphone, I've stored ideas in the messages section. All of my notebooks covers are filled with bits of dialog and descriptions.
    My muse likes to interrupt me during classes and on the bus. I wrote a funny scene about a cat and a dragon in the back of a bus on bumpy road. Every other line was barely readable :P

  4. That experience sounds like it ought to be a reality show. Extreme note-taking. Writing is only half the challenge; reading it later is how you win.