Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Say What?! (every writer's trusted friend...)

Every so often you get a piece of advice that’s like a seed. It’s very small, even miniscule, but it grows lavishly until you wonder what you ever did without it.

Such was the case when a long ago friend of mine gave me a tip that changed my life. I almost dismissed it but the idea tantalized me until I tried it and found the merits.

He said, the best memory is a piece of paper and a pen.

Brilliant? Stellar? Can’t live without it? Not exactly, I thought, especially since I have a semi-photographic memory extending to practically birth…what did I need paper for? Umm…right…

One day soon after, I recounted an event for a group of friends with someone else who had been there. She remembered a few more important details and I began to think perhaps my memory was fading. Maybe I only remembered the necessary things for me? I can hear God laughing… The advice of my friend flashed through my mind and I decided to try it. Just for accuracy’s sake, you know…nothing permanent.

At first it was an inexpensive pocket sketch book from the local everything store. I needed one without lines because sometimes I like to draw things. Well, that was used up in two weeks. I graduated to a composition book and ignored the lines. Again, two weeks, gone. Soon I had a stack of full notebooks.

Then an extraordinary thing happened. I read them and remembered far more than I did without them. Oh, I still have my semi-photographic memory but now it has a larger space, namely, notebooks.

I have a cool one now. It’s a moleskine from Barnes & Noble, a gift from my husband. It has lots of pages and no lines so I can draw. I don’t fill notebooks up as much since I’m more selective in what I use it for, going from everything to working on my stories.

As a writer, I find it invaluable. I take it with me everywhere. It’s much lighter than a laptop or netbook and won’t break if I drop it. It’s such a part of my everyday travels that it’s a fixture in my backpack.

My daughters, both in high school, were singing in the year-end concert last spring for their Chorus. We dropped them off a few hours ahead of time and went home to dress for the event. We knew it would be standing room only so we hurried back and found the best seats. We had an hour to spare. My husband took a walk and I waved to a few friends but I knew if I went over to talk to them, someone would grab our seats. So, what to do? I rummaged through my backpack for something of interest and there was my notebook. I was ecstatic. I opened it and read a few entries; ideas for blog posts, story beginnings, etc. I had some notes on a novel I was preparing for publication and had fun going over those. Suddenly, the entire plot and character line-up for a new novel flashed through my mind. I gasped. The ideas were so exciting. I feverishly jotted them down with tons of side notes and details, reveling in that rush of excitement that comes when I write. A new adventure opened before my eyes.

Then the lights dimmed and Paul returned to his seat. The concert was wonderful. We went out for ice cream afterwards and the day unfolded as most do. We had dinner. I checked email. I put away my backpack rummaging through the contents for any perishables I may have stashed there while running around town and saw my notebook, of course, normal. Then I remembered the novel notes. I grabbed it and read what I’d written only hours before. Again the excitement surged through me and I transferred my notes to my laptop to work on the story the next morning, grateful I had so many details and realizing I never would have remembered it all without my trusty notebook.

The best memory is a piece of paper and pen.

Pennies, really, for such a priceless tool.


Karen McGrath is an editor, an author, and homeschooling mother of three (one in grad school and two in high school).  Please drop her a note and visit her blog.  And get yourself a cool notebook.  :)
Photo credits: morguefile.com


L. K. Below said...

Awesome post, Karen!

I, too, used to walk around with a paper and pen. Whenever I find a new notebook, I like to keep it with me to jot down ideas, but ever since I received my voice recorder a couple years ago, that has been my constant companion. Now I can jot down ideas as I'm driving, when I'm too tired to turn on the light, or even in the shower (though I'm extra careful)!

Being able to record my ideas in some form is invaluable, especially to someone like me. I have so many ideas rummaging around in my mind, that I'll probably never write them all! Still, just in case that decides to be my next project, I always want to have as much detail as I can think up for the world and the story.

My longest on the recorder was over an hour nonstop!

Karen McGrath said...

Oh, a voice recorder sounds great! An hour long...that must have been some story. :)

Rebecca Ryals Russell said...

Wonderful post, Karen. I think I've mentioned somewhere that I NEVER leave home without my red leather pad and/or pocket-sized voice recorder. Both are invaluable depending on the situation. But whatever you do, keep a written record of details because your brain will fill up so fast you'll lose bits and pieces and then you'll be sorry.