Stephen King once said, “The writer’s notebook is the best way to immortalize bad ideas.” And sure, I’ll be bold enough to say it: Mr. King, I humbly disagree. Not like he and I have had this debate in person. If we did, that would be pretty damn awesome.
I think that, in addition to his long list of works, Stephen King has left an indelible mark on the instruction of writers. On Writing remains many a writer’s go-to manual for how to get through the work, the best part being that its casual, conversational tone makes it less like the Ten Commandments and more like some helpful advice that you may or may not take. And it is in that spirit of do what works for you that I write this.
King’s logic is that the big ideas will stick around while the strainer of your mind lets the smaller stuff fall through to forgetfulness. That is true. There are a couple of ideas I in my heads for the last year or two without any notes, and they linger because they’re just that good. But I’m not the most focused person, which is why I’m a meticulous notetaker. An idea might not seem good at the time, but you might run into some revelation later that makes it all congeal. The tragedy of it, however, is that you haven’t written the idea in the first place, so you’ve got a missed opportunity.
I’ve decided to do something a little different this year. In addition to my regular notebook, I keep handy a little Moleskine pocket notebook. The great thing about these notebooks is that you can dedicate a spread of pages for each day of the month and have enough to get through thirty-one days.
So at the end of 2017, I went out and bought a dozen of these to use monthly throughout 2018. Now at the end of January, I’m almost done with the first notebook, and flipping through the pages I count eleven ideas. When you’ve got that many ideas in the course of a month, you’re not dealing with inspiration issues. You’re dealing with sitting down and writing it issues, and I promise that you’ll get the momentum up and running by the second page. Ray Bradbury had this advice: “Write a short story every week. It’s not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.”
With all this in mind, I’ve determined a new habit, which is to write a new idea at least every other day in a given month, and the following month, I don’t have to worry about waiting for an a-ha moment that frankly is not likely to come.
I really won’t know how well it’ll work until I make the experiment, but I invite you to try it with me. If you do, feel free to leave a comment and let me know how it turns out.