I enjoy planning.
I file my tax receipts and expenses during the year as I go through. Yes, I am one of those people. Sorry.
I plan how I write. Every time.
I have a one page summary of my writing activities for the year hanging above my desk, it has boxes for: writing, edits with publisher, self editing, conferences, submissions, other, word target.
I am an organised individual. You get the picture.
Except, when it comes to making notes. I have two main places I make notes about writing things. On the notes thingummy in my phone, and in paper notebooks.
I tried to keep separate note books for story ideas, some for what I thought about books I'd read, another for notes from conferences etc. But it all got a bit complicated. Was that note about craft, or was it more of an idea for a blog post? What about if I was going away for a weekend and a story idea came to me in the middle of a conference session? Craft, or story idea? Same with notes on my phone, was that piece of dialogue I over-heard a story idea, or just something nice to hear, or was the tips from a podcast filed under craft, or ways to fix my work in progress? It was becoming a task in itself, filing the thoughts.
So, very quickly I gave up. I embraced the mess. I became at one with THE MESS. I learned to love the mess. I realised if there was going to be any mess in my creative process – how I write – this was where it was going to be, right? Using a baking analogy, cos why not, I bake...to get to the perfect Victoria sponge you have to spill some flour, sugar and crack eggs, mess up the mixing bowls and scales and probably get some butter on your work surface and apron. And that's fine.
The problem with all the categorising angst was I was thinking more about where to file the idea than I was about thinking if it was a good idea or not and just getting it down on paper (electronic or real). And really, that's the important thing isn't it? Getting it down.
I even have more than one note book on the go at the same time, depending on the coloured book I fancy taking with me, how much space I think I'll need when I'm away taking notes, what direction the wind is blowing in. It's remarkably freeing, just running my fingers along the spines of the 4-5 part filled note books and picking one that takes my fancy. It's a bit like divining for water, or something.
While on holiday in Australia earlier this year, I woke from a dream and frantically wrote two pages of ideas about a story I'd just been dreaming about. I didn’t pause, didn't think about ordering the idea, just scribbled and scribbled until I had it all down.
I was on the Tube last week and saw something I couldn't stop staring at; it was interesting, different, unusual, maybe a good start for a story. So I flipped out my phone and typed one-handed, while strap-hanging with the other, a few lines about what I'd seen, what questions it raised, and what assumptions that may bring. Who knows if I'll ever use that or not, but the thing is by capturing it instantly, in the moment while it was in front of me, I've now got the raw material to use (or not) in a story. If I'd spent time agonising which note book to write it in, or which coloured electronic file on my phone to tag it as I'd have been off at my stop and gone before I’d have written it down.
So that's why I'm embracing the mess, becoming one with the mess, in a contained, specific part of my life.
How do you organise your writing ideas and thoughts?
Liam Livings xx