What’s the point of a Writer’s Notebook

 Writing  Comments Off on What’s the point of a Writer’s Notebook
Jul 062012

All the writers who advise writers agree I must keep a notebook.  But they don’t say what it is for.  The obvious intention is that I should use a notebook to collect ideas together for later use.  But I have about 3,000 3×5 index cards, and numerous jottings and computer files, collected over a period of more than thirty years.  I can remember hardly anything that’s in there.

Maybe I should do a random sift every now and then.  Pick up a bundle of cards and see what is there.  Classify them somehow.  Then I could have collections marked:

  • People’s appearance and characteristics;
  • Witticisms and insights – maybe subdivided into politics, marriage …
  • Descriptions of places and buildings;
  • Ideas and sketches for stories; and so on.

Then I would end up with two hundred little drawers – each with two or three cards in – and a vast heap called “miscellaneous”.

And I would have wasted another slab of time which could have been used for writing.

 Posted by at 23:58

A writer’s daily start-up

 Writing  Comments Off on A writer’s daily start-up
Jul 302011

I’ve set up a little routine for getting my slow, authorial brain started in the mornings.  I have a file listing the 6,000 most frequently used words in modern English.  I draw a random sample of 20 from the list and then force myself to write a short story using all those 20 words, in the same order that the random sampler lists them.

Usually 20 minutes work will convert my 20 words into a 200 word short story.  It’s no surprise that most of the stories are pretty useless, but the exercise has at least got my writing cells going.  So I junk the little random fragment and – brain switched on now – I turn to more serious work.

The odd thing is that sometimes the story is promising and I can work it up into something much more valuable than a mere exercise.

 Posted by at 20:51

Music and writing

 Writing  Comments Off on Music and writing
Jul 082011

It’s a strange thing, but I need to have music playing while I write.  Right now it’s Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto.  In fact I have always needed music to work well at writing or anything else.  (When in a shared workspace I use headphones.)  If there’s no music I am easily distracted and completely lose my focus.  It’s as if the music occupies the parts of my mind that would otherwise be distracting me from work.

Why should one distraction defeat another?  I wonder if anyone has ever done scientific research on that?

 Posted by at 15:57

Writing tools

 Writing  Comments Off on Writing tools
Jul 082011

At one time ‘writing tools’ meant pen and paper.  Then, for a while, it meant a typewriter.  But now it means computer software.  The problem for me is that I like tinkering with software.  With a really good piece of writer’s software I get immersed in setting it up, playing with its features, thinking what could be done to improve the tool, and so on.

In short, it distracts me from getting any writing done.  A typewriter isn’t complicated enough to do that.

 Posted by at 12:05