Almost anything can spark an idea, but as many writers know – if you don’t write down that idea while it’s fresh in your mind, it can easily have taken wing by the time you reach home. Today many of us use electronic devices of some kind or another to write, but one important tool which shouldn’t be neglected is the humble notebook.
A notebook can be any size, although one small enough to carry around in a pocket or bag is useful. I have half a dozen because at one point I kept leaving my notebook at home. (I can tell you exactly how long it takes to race from my favourite coffee hangout to the nearest stationary shop.) Some writers like to indulge themselves and invest in the luxury end of the market and there is a certain gratification in opening a notebook whose cover is an ornately designed piece of art, but currently a 50p notebook suits me fine. So whenever I go out these days, I always check that I’ve packed those two essential items, my trusty notebook and a couple of pens – don’t rely on one, it can run out.
Developing the habit of jotting down observations and descriptions of people and places in your notebook is worthwhile cultivating. A good exercise to practice when you’re outside – the garden, the park, the beach, wherever – is to spend about ten minutes or so writing down what you see, hear and smell. Notice any actions taking place, the different shades and shapes of objects; are there clouds in the sky, what does the air feel like on your skin (this may be easier in seasons where the weather is not too inclement)? Try to create a written snapshot of what you see. Don’t worry about grammar or punctuation, think like an impressionist painter, it’s all about the moment.
Another use for a notebook is as a diary. Diaries can be a way to explore your emotions and develop a deeper awareness of your internal monologue because when you write, you take much from your own life experience. Both Virginia Woolf and Somerset Maugham kept notebooks which they found invaluable for different reasons. Maugham because he intended to use what he wrote as a resource for later use, and Woolf often recorded observations about her own writing process.
Notebooks are also good for morning writing, another practice advocated for improving your writing. The theory is that by writing as soon as you wake you are still in contact with that part of your mind which dreams and are able to access your subconscious more easily. Morning writing is freewriting without clustering or a prompt. (This practice needs discipline – groping for a notebook on a dark winter’s morning and simply trying to function without coffee didn’t work for me – but I still do my best writing when I’ve made it downstairs to the warm kitchen - after that coffee!)
The news, wherever you get it from, radio, tv, twitter – even a newspaper, is an endless source of ideas. A story needs tension and conflict and you’ll find plenty in any newcast. You can use your notebook to jot down and collect ideas for later development and, even if you never expand or use much of what you put down, the act of observing and noting down items which interest you are grist for the mill of your writer’s imagination.
A notebook is for you to use how you wish: freewriting, diary, morning writing, character sketches, beginnings and expansions of ideas, planning the chain of events for your novel – anything and everything. I know that for me, over time, my notebook has become an invaluable tool in my writing journey.
I’m wondering whether to reduce from two blogs a week to one. Writing the novel and posting a blog twice a week has worked well so far, although everything takes longer than I imagine as research and the gear shift my internal editor makes when I hit the ‘Preview’ button can mean a lot of tweaking . You’ll note the use of the word ‘imagine’ as opposed to 'planning’. Planning isn’t a word I use for time management as this is a skill which I need to acquire because social media interactions also eat up time in the day. I definitely feel the need to ease up and figure out what works best.
My thanks to Paula Grapf for posting a link to a great article where the recommended time for social media was half an hour in the morning and again in the evening, and to BV Bharati for her post on 'Followers and +'s' which is sharp and funny.
siren dreams entice
heavy sleep weights my eyelids –
a losing battle
The generous Adrianna Joleigh is hosting my writer's surgery, so if you have any writing queries, please send them to Teagan K’s Writing Surgery at: email@example.com
Check out Adrianna’s great website at: adriannajoleigh.blogspot.com/
http://amzn.to/18SbSaG Gold Dragon Haiku - my first attempt at publishing poetry!
Join me on Twitter at: teagankearney@modhaiku
To all story lovers out there, good reading, and to those of you who write, good writing.