Keep A Record

Last night, I was having a discussion with a good friend of mine who is also a writer. We were throwing around some of the ideas I’ve put forth in this blog, namely that of writing every day.

It’s not the easiest thing to do, keeping a constant routine of writing. But something he said stuck with me, and I’d like to share it. It went something like this:

Every day, you wake and greet a world that is changing constantly; everywhere you look, there’s something new and unfamiliar. That being said, if you can go through a whole day without questioning anything, without having some urge to try and decipher what’s happening around you, then what exactly are you doing?

To add a little clarity, I’d like to address a quote I heard from the trailer for Woody Allen’s upcoming film, Cafe Society: “The unexamined life is not worth living, but the examined one is no bargain.” Its really a quote from Socrates, but the point remains the same: question everything. Dig deeper.

Everybody’s got their own unique views on life; the whole gamble with being a writer is figuring out if your view is worth reading about. If you’re not recording your thoughts on the goings-on that surround you each day, then how are you going to figure that out?

Not that you should gather all your opinions into a manifesto and try and get them published; mindless thoughts and musings have a home already, and that’s social media.

Instead, use them to influence your work. The way you think about world events and the life you lead is fodder for characters, plot developments, settings. Everything around you can be funneled into writing; you just need a method of collecting scraps of life to be pasted onto paper.

I keep the notes on my phone open constantly. Whenever I run into a particularly unique person, or something out of the ordinary happens, or even when I have a thought that, for whatever reason, I want to recall later, I write it down. Then, when I’ve got the time, I sit down and run through everything I’ve collected.

These notes serve as building blocks for stories. Sometimes, if I need a scrap of dialogue or a character trait, I dig into my ideas and quotes and take what I can from there. Often I find something or other that works; the world around us is so vast and diverse that its damn near impossible to not have something from the past few days.

This practice of mine eliminates the excuse of “I have nothing to write about” that comes knocking at my door when I don’t want to write. I can’t imagine I’m the only person who finds it hard to make arrangements with himself; keeping a disciplined schedule when you’re the only one holding you accountable is not so easy. Especially now, in the summer months — the urge to just lay in the grass all day is tough to resist.

So now you’ve got nothing holding you back. Consider the record you keep as a gas tank full of fuel for writing. As long as there’s something in there, there’s no reason not to leave the driveway. Even if you think it won’t be enough to get you from point A to point B, its all about working with what you have. Write what you know; I’ve said it before.

What this is in danger of producing, however, is an overabundance of incomprehensible jibberish you’ve jotted down on subways, at bus stops, on line at the grocery store, in the bathtub…and soon you don’t remember exactly what most of it meant.

To try and combat this, I suppose you could just regularly break down what you’ve recorded within the last, say, three days and organize the information. Or give this a try, because I think I’m going to:

Take all the notes you’ve written that relate directly to people and create a docket of characters to regularly choose from. Have a folder full of them; for each character, have a short bio that includes the bits from your notes and that is always ready to grow and change according to what you want to do with each one.

In this way, you’ll always have people to insert into your work where you might need a minor character. They can always be changed and altered, but the point is that you’ve already got them started.

The same thing goes for settings, dialogue, even whole scenes — have a folder for conversations (label with topics), locations, actions…it’ll soon become a small library. Not that I highly suggest relying on this filing cabinet of story pieces to create your entire work. Instead, they should be available to fill gaps — kind of like plaster — whenever you need to smooth your work out.

It can also help relieve writer’s block, and the best part is that its always coming from you and your world. Its influence from all sorts of places, such an amalgam of information that its bound to create something unique.

As all my posts are, this is just an idea. But its something that I, for one, would like to incorporate into my method. So I’ll keep this updated on how it goes.

If it all works, perhaps you’d like to incorporate it into your method as well.