I have a note on my phone that reads “curdled my well-being”.
It’s a phrase I heard on a podcast, I don’t even know which one any more (I’m a podcast junkie, for the record), but the note is there just the same. I loved the fresh and telling way of using the word curdled. Immediately I felt, “Ooh, yes, I know exactly what that feels like!” Even though that was the first time I’d heard curdled being used for anything other than milk or cheese. I plan to co-opt that phrasing in my writing one day. Or take inspiration from it and find my own food word to manipulate and do my literary bidding. But right now, it’s biding its time, waiting for me.
It’s just a phrase, I know, but you know what would happen if I didn’t write down.
Like it never happened.
I don’t trust the same idea to strike twice, so that note is grouped together with other notes-in-waiting. One reads, “Glitter is my favorite color.” which is what a family friend told me verbatim and I thought, what perfect characterization. If an author wrote that her character's favorite color was glitter, how much more does that tell you about the character than if she had just written pink. It’s brilliant, I know!
Another reads “Tehillim chat crasher”. Hmmm, that phenomenon is a little most complicated to explain, but when it shows up in my work you’ll be like, “That’s what she was talking about.” And you’ll know I got it off my notes app.
I have another list, it’s of words I like, but forget to use.
Meaning, I’ll read an article and come across a word and think, “That was effective!”, but I also know that I probably wouldn’t use it in my own writing. Not because I don’t know it, or am not comfortable with it, but it’s just not a “within reach” word: it’s not a word I’d come up with on my own. So I write it down.
Honestly most of the words I write down are pretty ones like, wisps and willow and gossamer and lithe, because my writing often lacks lyricism and I’d like to improve on that. Ugly words like jowls and droopy come easy to me, ergo, those words didn’t make it to the list.
On the notes app in my phone there’s a collection of phrases, ideas, and words I’ve come across that tickled my fancy; where the little creative junky inside of me said, “Yum, I’m saving this goody for later.”
Because even though we’re not writing all the time, creativity doesn’t rest. In fact, when you’re resting is when it does its best work, (for more on that read my post “I’m Stuck, Now What”.) 75% (I totally made that number up, but a significant percentage) of writing is not actually writing, but noticing, taking in the world around you and filtering it through your lens.
Though once you realize the world is your oyster and the ideas are endless, don’t expect your memory to keep up with your creative churn. You need a dumping ground. Mine is my notes app. And also scattered google docs. And some word docs. I should be more organized, but at least I know my ideas are safe, because I don’t know about you, but my memory is not to be relied on for appreciating brilliance.
So, my suggestion to you is the following: create a folder titled “Ideas” or “Brain Dump” or whatever you’ll remember. Then create sub-folders of plot, characterization, details, words, stakes, premises (and really anything else you can think of).
I don’t expect you to open the right folder the moment an idea strikes. When that happens any old google doc will do, but every once in a while, or sooner, go through your random notes and sort them into the appropriate files or folders so you can access them later.
Let me know how it goes.
What golden nuggets have you stored to mine later?