Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Busy Busy Busy

This week is so full that I have no time to write. (Yes, I could squeeze in half an hour here and there, but am not prepared to put myself under that much pressure when work is so demanding.) But I keep having ideas. At the gym... in the bath... driving between assignments... almost any time I'm not actively thinking about other things.

Write your ideas down, wise people will say. But you know what? I never actually do that. I don't own a paper notebook. I tried writing ideas down for a while, way back, because all the proper writers seemed to do it. But it doesn't work for me. Last week's idea seems trite, while last month's idea doesn't even make sense any more. Even a paragraph mapping out a short story will seem unappetising if I return to it after a few days - like going to the kitchen, hungry for a sandwich, and finding only mouldy bread.

Perhaps this is partly why I'm not a great planner. Having said that, some ideas stick in my mind over months, even years, until I want to use them. I don't worry about non-stick ideas because I can usually generate new ones. Then again, maybe I re-generate old ones that just feel like new ones, who knows? Who cares!

Do you write down your ideas and use them later, or trust your creativity in the moment, or a bit of both?

8 comments:

SueG said...

I do both. I write some new ideas down, some I don't. Sometimes I'll look back at ideas, but I rarely write them as I had them. I think I'm afraid of being too inflexible, but then again I'm also afraid of being too forgetful. Ridiculous. But I guess what it comes down to is that more than anything, I trust I'll come up with something when the moment arises. Much like you, I think.

Bernadette said...

I have a terrible memory so if I don't write things down I usually lose them for good. If I think of something at night I have to get up and write it down or I keep myself awake woryying that I'll forget it.
I've quite often written down a first line that has come to me out of nowhere that has later been turned into a story - I can think of two sales offhand that started like that.
Also, other scribbled ideas have been productive, though usually best if not left so long that the 'atmosphere' of the idea has been lost.
Though of course there are many others that I've come back to and wondered what on earth I was thinking - or haven't been able to read at all!!

Pat said...

I can't bear the frustration of trying to remember that marvellous idea I had in the middle of the night so just a one word jotting is a help.

Pamplemousse said...

I get in a right old panic about losing those marvellous ideas, so I try to write them down. It it's not easy or I forget to do it, I try to console myself with the thought that if it was a really good one, it will return or not leave my head in the first place.

But what you say about mouldy bread is so true. And there are a lot of other problems with writing everything down. One is sheer volume. Where do you put it all? When will you ever read it? How will you find (amongst your notes) the right idea for the right moment? When will you find the time to properly log / file all those assorted scraps of paper from the moments when a notebook wasn't to hand?

I've wasted months during all three of my novels sifting through these jotted-down ideas and trying to shoehorn them in or just put them into some kind of sensible order. In the end most of them are removed at the editing stage. The best stuff, the stuff most likely to stay, is the stuff that comes straight out of my head and onto the novel's page. And the previously-jotted-down bits that stay should probably not be there either.

I think you might be right that there is a freedom in just refusing to do it, and you probably save a lot of time too. But... but... but...

My basic problem is that I'm a hoarder. I can't throw anything away.

Carol said...

It's not quite the same thing but I do have a sketch book of ideas and words that I keep....sometimes I look at them and think 'Why the hell did I write that' but other times I find things in there that inspire me....I guess it's each to their own!!

C x

Queenie said...

SueG, that's another of those writerly paradoxes, the damn things are inescapable!

Bernadette, maybe the problem I have is that my 'so long' isn't very long at all.

Pat, you write things down in the middle of the night? Hats off to you!

Pamplemousse, maybe that's at the heart of it, because I'm so not a hoarder, I can't bear being surrounded by stuff and regularly give or throw things away.

Carol, yes, I think you're right.

Lane said...

I tend to write them down but I rarely use them so perhaps the exercise is futile.

I do jot down things I see and hear and occasionally use them later. But as your previous reader has said - there's only a certain amount of scrawled notes you can shift through. Perhaps the act of writing it down means that if it's ever needed again, it'll resurface on it's own. Maybe....:-)

Sylvia Phoenix said...

I used to rely on my memory but I'm afraid it's, well, unreliable these days. So now I carry one of those police officer's notebooks around with me. You know, the little ones with the elastic to keep them closed. I've also go one by my bed.

The ideas start out on my notebooks but soon find their way to my computer, where they currently reside in a network of mind-maps. I didn't think I'd like mind mapping but I've come to realise that they work far better for me than linear notes. You can see so much on one page.

All I have to do now is to make some use from them.