In my last post, I talked a bit about how we get ideas. But getting the idea is worthless if we immediately lose its essence. We have to capture not just the idea, but its context. Many writers talk about carrying around a small notebook for these occasions. Or, you can verbally record a note into your phone for later playback. Yet, there are times when neither of these is possible, like in a dark movie theater or when your friend is sobbingly recounting the tragedy of watching her cat die of a stroke. You can’t just whip a scrap of paper and say, “excuse me a minute. (Scribble.) Now, what were you saying?”
Okay, so you record ideas when you can. But I’ve found, for me that isn’t sufficient. I end up with cryptic notes that no longer have the slightest meaning. I find things like “rain barrel” or “dirty socks.” At the time I record them, they are so vivid, I’m certain I’ll remember later what story the image created in my mind. But later, no matter how hard I try, I can no longer recall what brilliant idea these words were meant to capture. So, for me, I’ve found that it’s essential to add a rough draft of the concept. E.g., “dirty socks. Is his relationship was on the rocks. Had he been showing other signs that I had glossed over? Is his mental health in danger?” That sort of thing. Just something that will give me a clue what to do with my strange notations. The more I can rough out my ideas when they occur to me, the easier it is to flesh them out later on. It doesn’t have to be an entire draft, of course. But definitely more than just “dead bird” or “that shade of red.” Things that leave me scratching my head, going “Wha???” Otherwise those brilliant ideas never get written. Luckily, as I wrote before, there are always more ideas out there.