Elizabeth: Catching those Creative Thoughts

Writing_Notes2As you probably know by now (and are tired of hearing) I, along with thousands of other writers, am busily writing away as part of November’s annual NaNoWriMo.

So far I’ve been successful at writing every day, even that day last week when I didn’t get home from my day job until 8:30. You can be sure writing was the last thing I wanted to do that evening, but I didn’t want to break my writing streak, even if I didn’t quite reach my word count for the day.

As I mentioned on Michille’s post last week, my efforts have already started to pay off. Not only am I finding it easier to get back into my story each day when I start to write, but I’ve been getting lots of new ideas to incorporate into the story.

I tend to do some of my best creative thinking as I’m falling asleep or just waking up. Many times, when I work on my story right before I go to sleep, I dream about something relevant to it or something that triggers a thought I can use in the story. That creative-dreaming process had stopped in recent months, and I was kind of worried it was gone for good. Fortunately, my worry was unfounded. At around day 3 of NaNo, the dreams and creative thoughts came right back. Turns out they weren’t gone; they had just faded from disuse.

I’ve always carried a notebook around with me during the day, so I can jot down any random thoughts that come to mind, but now I’ve started bringing a notebook with me to bed too so I can write down the thoughts that come to me as I’m drifting off. (I don’t know about you, but I almost never remember the ‘great’ ideas I have in the middle of the night. By morning, it’s like they never happened.)

The notebook above, and the pages with it, shows just some of the things I jotted down during my night-time thinking. Though the notes can be hard to decipher in the light of day (you try writing in the dark), I’ve been able to make some really good progress on my story with the ideas I’ve captured. Reaching for the pen and notebook may not be doing my sleep-patterns any good, but it’s been a great help to my writing.

I’ve long wished there was some kind of brain-plug-in that would record all my thoughts (including those great sentences I think of and then promptly forget). Pending that invention, a pen and a 50-cent notebook are doing the trick.

So, how do you capture all of the great, random, creative ideas you have so they don’t get lost?

8 thoughts on “Elizabeth: Catching those Creative Thoughts

  1. I woke up with a great idea last week. The only thing I could do was write it down on paper with a pen, and tell my kid, “Just a second, let me get this down.” I couldn’t get back to it for two days, which worried me tremendously, but I had kept enough of the outline that it wasn’t a problem when I sat down and wrote for 100 minutes straight.

    Using the vocal memo app on my phone works. I get distracted by the punctuation and stuff (saying comma seems so weird), but the more I use it, the better I’ll get. And even with the clumsiness, it’s about 20 times better than trying to type on my phone’s tiny keyboard. Legibility is a real plus! Heck, sometimes I have a tough time writing legibly in broad daylight, so I giggled a little bit at your night-blind attempts to write in a book. Yep.

    • Yay for capturing your thought Michaeline and for getting 100 minutes of writing. My night-time writing attempts are about 50% legible. Fortunately, that’s usually enough to get the general idea. I’ve thought about using a voice memo app – I know several people who have good results with that – but I feel like a weirdo talking to myself, and can’t stand to hear my own voice when I play it back. For now, I’m sticking with writing in the dark.

      • OMG, yes. Even in daylight by myself in the car, I feel like a weirdo doing it. And if there’s someone on the other side of the bed at 3 a.m., OMG OMG. ZOMG.

        But I’m talking about a voice-to-text app, so you wouldn’t need to play it back. If you don’t care about punctuation, it can be a fast and easy way to catch a snippet.

        Still doesn’t solve the problem of men, women and other wildlife that you may disturb on the other pillow. Writing is probably the politest way to handle the problem.

  2. “The best tool is the one you actually use” — Some random guy.

    For me, that means my phone, because that’s about the only thing that I always have on me. (There are time I envy women their cultural permission to carry a purse. Then I think about how like I would be to lose it, and am glad that society doesn’t trust me with one.)

    The two specific phone things I can recommend are both free: Google Keep and Siri (or the Android equivalent). Being able to dictate text is so damned handy, even if the word misunderstandings are frequently both hilarious and baffling. (I can dictate the phrase “dystopian protoplasmic malaise”, but I can’t get Siri to recognize “wool”, “emu”, “sheep”, or “manure”.) Google Keep is sort of like a lightweight Evernote or OneNote. The ability to throw text into my phone and have it immediately available to me on my computer (and vice versa) is magic I highly approve of.

    • I may have to try dictating, as long as it converts to text so I don’t have to play the dictation back. I haven’t heard of Google Keep – I’ll have to check that out. Thanks for the suggestion.

  3. Your night-time notes look surprisingly legible/coherent, Elizabeth! I use my notebook and a pen if I’m at home, my phone if I’m out and about. I couldn’t use a voice memo app though – feel exactly like you on the talking and the listening back to myself – so I just make notes. I think the process of writing the note helps the idea to stick in my head.

    I’m very jealous of your dreaming. When I’m on a roll that happens to me a lot, usually first thing in the morning just before I wake up properly. It hasn’t happened for a while now, but I’m fighting my way back into the story and hoping eventually it will return. Fingers crossed.

    • The dreaming thing is weird, but I’m going with it. It works the best early in the morning on Saturday/Sunday when don’t have to jump up and rush to work. That “laying around half asleep time” is very productive for me. This is the first time I’ve made a really conscious effort to capture all the thoughts I get then. Having NaNo goals to meet every day has been a Great motivator.

      Yesterday, when I was looking at my notes from the night before, I was very glad to have written them down since I did not remember having most of them at all. I’m still trying to figure out what “the bee monologue” is all about 🙂

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