On April 13, 2017, I published a blog post about keeping a journal. This post was directed toward people with chronic illnesses, specifically those who battle the same beast I have, Menière’s disease. This is not the same kind of journaling as I am about to discuss.
When you are a writer, you write. This sounds redundant, but it is true. I have kept a journal on my computer for a number of years. This is the first thing I open every morning. Okay, the second. I first open iTunes and connect it to my AppleTV and hit play for my meditative music. Some days I only type a few words. And by a few words, I mean a few words. Such as “I hate Menière’s.” Other days, I type and type and type. I also keep a separate page if I need to write about my dreams the night before, but I will get back to that. Keeping this kind of a journal is private. There are no rules, no guidelines. You just sit and write. As writers we are advise to write something every day. NEWSFLASH!! Maintaining this journal qualifies as writing every day.
If you prefer a notebook or standard, old-fashioned type journal/diary, by all means, keep one. Under lock and key of course, but you need to be comfortable with the tools you use. You cannot be productive if you are uncomfortable. Write everything you feel you need to write. It can be a few words or it can be a novella. Just write what you need to write in the journal every day. No one will see this but you.
On to the other stuff and the real reason behind this post.
Last week, I made the meme to the right and posted it on Facebook. It received a few comments. But I think everyone, most of my contacts are writers, poets, editors and publishers, had to admit they have similar notebooks laying around. This is a small notebook I keep handy and have taken it many places with me. It is an idea notebook. I use this to jot down lines, notes and even names to use in future poems and stories. It isn’t full, but I do go back to it often. Sometimes I will even be in the middle of a piece and have a flash of déjà vu. I’ll pull this out and go page-by-page to see if there is something there I can use in my project. Again, no rules apply.
Besides this little notebook, which can be purchased at your local bookstore, I have a large three-ring binder I use as well. This helps me sort larger ideas into sections. This is mostly ideas I get from my dreams. If you recall, I said I would get back to that. Most of my stories come from my dreams. I have become so adept with them that I can pick and choose which ones I recall. And I can recall them with clarity. I will usually have a special page each day in my daily journal where I write about my dreams. These are the ones I may desire to develop into story concepts. Yes, I can recall my dreams, but sometimes I need a bit of a reminder. This helps.
Aside from the aforementioned methods for jotting down ideas, I also have a spiral notebook with three sections. Here is where I begin writing my stories. There are pockets for holding other papers. This is where I keep the bits of information I come up with, but do not know where to incorporate it as yet. I also have a clipboard where I keep lots of lined paper. This is for my poetry and poetic ideas. I handwrite my poems and stories prior to typing them into the computer. I feel I have more control this way even if my handwriting leaves a lot to be desired. Then again, if I struggle to read it, anyone who would want to steal my work would also have a hard time reading it.
The final way I keep notes and ideas is in the computer. I have folders on my desktop and on my writing hard drive where I have Word documents with all kinds of ideas. Sometimes I find things online, links, photos, etc., and those are more difficult to transfer to a notebook. I keep these things as organized as I can. Then when I am working on a particular piece, I refer back and use what I need and save the rest for another project in the future.
Now, I know what you are asking. What about when you don’t have access to a notebook or your computer? Or furthermore, those times when you can’t physically write/type something down? Easy peasy. Three little letters D.V.R. Digital Voice Recorder. Almost all phones, especially smart phones, have a recorder in them. I also keep an actual DVR on the night stand by my bed which I can operate with my eyes closed. You wake in the night with this brilliant idea, but you do not want to turn the light on and sit up to write it down or turn on your computer. Record it. Then in the morning, or when you have time, you listen and write.
I have actually written poems this way. During NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) when I have participated, I have had times when I could not write a poem that day. I do not cheat like many who think all you need to do to participate is write 30 poems during the month of April. Menière’s Disease will put me in bed for a few days each month. When you are vertigo and in bed, it is difficult to write. I would use the DVR during waking moments. Only problem with this at times is that my speech is so slurred from the medication and brain fog, I can’t understand it later. Generally speaking though, the DVR is great for when you can’t physically write your idea.
Keep your ideas. Keep them safe. Keep them as organized as you desire. Again, no rules to follow. Just keep your ideas.