Way back in history when I was experienced only in writing features and essays for magazines and newspapers and just beginning to think about a book, I took several no-credit writing classes at what was then Tulsa Junior College. The teacher, Peggy Fielding, taught us so many valuable things, but she had two firm rules: WRITE EVERY DAY, and ALWAYS CARRY A NOTEBOOK.
WRITE EVERY DAY? You can probably figure this one out whether you’re a writer or not. If you put your behind in a chair and start typing for at least a short time every day, you mold your your mind and body into a writing routine. And, chances are, you will write and it won’t be all drivel. It’s kinda like doing those exercises every day. It becomes automatic, doesn’t it? We have to determine to do the sometimes difficult things we know (somewhere in the back of our thoughts) are good for us, and then convince our minds and bodies that, by golly, we MEAN it! No playing around, no straightening pictures, no deciding it’s time to do a load of laundry. JUST DO IT! (Now, where have I read that before?)
ALWAYS CARRY A NOTEBOOK. Yes, a notebook with paper pages. Small. Probably spiral bound. Fits in pocket. Small pen or stubby pencil poked in the metal spirals. Why? Ideas come at the most unexpected times. In line at grocery I write: “Mom went to the grocery every day because it got her out of the house and gave her something to do. (Use this for character in book-in-progress?)”
Part-way through a walk I stop suddenly, watch a deer start to bound away, then stop after a few leaps and turn back to look at me. I write: “Deer snort just like horse.” On another morning I write: “Dew-enhanced spider webs. Silver lace.” Another: “Chill, walk fast, bird sounds painfully sharp in the cold air.” And, once, remembering: “Why, when a baby yawns, does it always make me sleepy?”
Of course I also write down remembered chores to add to my “to-do” list, reminders to call someone or check with someone about a business activity–that sort of thing. I jot down phone numbers and dates to remember, too. But the really fun things are the idea and observation snippets. True, I may never use any of them in my writing or quote them in an e-mail to a friend. But, if nothing else, months later they will be fun memories to re-visit. My little notebooks, filled and filed, are treasures for quiet moments, and, often, inspiration for when I put my behind in that chair and begin typing.