Writing Snippets

It isn’t possible to jot down everything that might come in handy one day in a writerly sense. There are some things which seem momentous, and are recorded, but when rediscovered at a later date there is some head scratching at context or simply general bewilderment about what was so important about a snatched phrase or idea. Other isolated thoughts, sometimes as simple as a word or two, seem to resonate with possibilities.

Whilst flicking through my latest writing notebook, I have come across some odd scratchings. Sometimes it is testing out an idea, or gathering notes on something I have listened to. The following was recorded after listening to how phrases from some obsolete (for the most part) occupations still appear today. One of the phrases was ‘a whale in the bay’, which was popular during the decades of whaling, and indicated someone with money to spend, a captive audience. The fluke is the tail fin of a whale, and is used when a whale lifts its tail before diving, usually after arching its back.

There are patches of word association: circuit breaker, mindfulness, visualisation techniques, creativity, calm, relaxation, invigorating, breath, breathing. These words helped to shape a post on mindfulness.

Then there are the random bits. Build the life you want in the time you’ve got. Not sure if I read this or heard it, but it captured my attention long enough to ensure it was recorded. There are bits from other people’s blogs. Comfort zone: a place where boredom lives and fear dominates. This was spotted on Susans130 in January this year.  And lots of things like this. Tuxedo: what a funny word. Where does it come from? Answer: named after a country club at Tuxedo Park, New York.

Writing notebooks are there to capture moments which otherwise might be lost. One last example below from March this year.

One of the reasons why I go out is to experience life – the essence of surprise. The lift door opened to let in another lady and an amazing burst of German opera. A man in black pants, white dress shirt and a stunning voice. Just magic, really.

How do you keep track of odd moments in your writing life?

[Photo: wren spotted scratching about at Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, Mt Tomah]

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Scratchings from a writing notebook

I have managed to fill one of my writing notebooks. Well, all except for a few spare lines here and there. I have another book ready to go, but I’m still a bit reluctant to leave this one behind. It has travelled with me for the best part of a year, ready to capture stray thoughts and story ideas and the random bits that have been gathered along the way.

As I flick through the pages, I can see my initial thoughts around starting a blog and snippets stuck in from articles in the local paper that caught my eye. This includes a small poem published in an attempt to reconnect with a fleeting encounter:

The Station Bar across the space, a Sunday night’s caprice of fate, a laugh a dance a kiss would seal, my blighted sleep the feelings real. Explorers falls your lift to home, my spirits sag no name no phone, Monday morning Mudgee calls, my perfidy its just reward. If status quo be mine to keep, your eyes your smile your touch of cheek, forever lost and never found, the universe its secret sound.

Did they ever reconnect? Did he/she read the poem tucked into the personal notices and reply? I’d really like to know.

There are notes from books and articles that I’ve read whilst writing blogs with historical elements. There are random titles for story or blog ideas, some ticked off as I’ve written them. Others remain, ready to prompt me in the future. The pages are dotted with words that I have come across and need to look up, as well as questions to myself such as ‘what is pig iron?’  It’s the crude iron formed from a smelting furnace, shaped into rectangle blocks. Old photos of the Blasting Furnace at Lithgow had scores of the blocks.

Song titles feature quite a bit, as do snippets of lyrics. One favourite is ‘I started out with nothin’, I’ve still got most of it left’ by Seasick Steve. It made me laugh out loud when I heard it one night on the local radio station segment called Random Groove.

Instructions are also littered throughout, reminding me to take care of certain writing matters. There are prompts that I’ve read in different places, as well as snippets of conversation that I’ve heard whilst eavesdropping. This may not seem like much but these glimmers often reemerge in short stories or longer pieces. There are also pages when I’ve written an idea out, sketching the rough format for a piece with imagery that is vivid at the time, but may be lost if not recorded somewhere.

Short stories are there, in their entirety or sometimes just the beginning, or some other part if I’m wrestling with wording and need to slow the writing process down. There are sticky notes and dot points. Lots of dot points.

I was thinking of moving the unfinished or incomplete bits over to my new book but I think it would be best to leave it as is, and return to the old book for inspiration when I need it.

How do you keep track of ideas that you gather along the way?

[Photo of one of the many wonderful miniature paintings in the Secret Lane in Lithgow]

Taking Note

Lately I’ve been thinking about ways to keep track of the tendrils of thoughts and ideas that come to the surface when I’m trying to do something else. These snippets seem to arise alongside, despite of and as a consequence of what I am writing, reading and listening to at the time.

Not all of these are recorded and rightly so. They are tenuous at best when I look over them at a later date, and sometimes I wonder what I was thinking when the need to record the essence of whatever it was took hold. These days we are subject to an increasing tide of information and stimulation. It can sometimes feel like grabbing handfuls of sand whilst being tossed on a thundering incoming wave. Recording snippets helps me to feel a modicum of control, as well as providing prompts and ideas for future writing.

I wish I could write that I have perfected the art of keeping track of these moments, but that would be a fib. I scribble bits and pieces in an A5 lined notebook. The pages include motley collections of lists including things I want to do when I have time (optimist!), musicians that I’ve heard and want to explore further, the name of a subject matter expert that a friend mentioned, a word that I hadn’t come across before (senescence, if you must know) and other miscellany.

Other pages contain prose relating to a short story where I was working on an ending, and some paragraphs where I was playing with a character’s viewpoint. There are to-do items along with song titles or lyric lines that have captured my attention for future use as writing prompts or just because I like them. There are a myriad of apps that also help with capturing the flotsam and jetsam. I like to use Evernote because I can group thoughts and images and links into journals, but I’m sure there are lots of other options out there.

This consideration of the compulsion to take notes was inspired by an article written by Joan Didion called ‘On Keeping a Notebook’. I’m quite sure this was referred to by Annabel Crabb or Leigh Sales in one of the early Chat 10, Looks 3 podcasts. There is a link to the article here. I found it encouraging to read that someone else feels the need capture these moments, such as they are. Didion writes about the necessity to record things, the mix of truth and fiction, the snatches of conversation, the need to capture how something felt.

How do you keep track of the flotsam and jetsam in your life?

[Photo: View from Mt Tomah Botanical Gardens]