Alright, so that title is a little melodramatic, but it was what popped into my head, so I had to use it. You understand, don't you?
When I'm talking to friends or anyone who says they want to write, but just don't have the time, or don't know how to start, or whatever other excuse happens to come up (hey, I've used them, too, so no judgment here), one of the first things I recommend is a notebook. One little notebook. Any kind. Why? To write down ideas as they come, take notes, get your mind used to writing words down on paper, organize your thoughts and spur your creativity.
Let's go back in time a bit. I attended my first writer's conference three years ago now, I think? I left that conference jazzed, but I didn't really know where to start. I had a big idea in my mind of something I wanted to write about, but I just never had the time, and I didn't know how to begin the novel. However, my mind was working overtime on the story. I was stuck, though, unsure what was making me unable to just sit and write. I would start the story, get stuck, give up, start it again.
Frustrated, I sat down with a composition book I had on hand (it had been a journal eons before), and I started writing down whatever I was thinking. It didn't have to go together yet. It was just a way to let my mind work through whatever was going on.
This really got the flow going, and I had a breakthrough that finally jump started Lonely Hollow: Synthesis. I got to the point where I carried that composition book and a pen or pencil everywhere I went. In less than a year, I'd written the novel (which is in edits), and I'd had ideas for several more, as well as short story and character sketches that came to me, but had no definite home.
Fast forward to now and I have several composition books, each for a separate novel I'd like to write. I jot notes in them as they come to me. These are in addition to the habit I've had for about two decades of writing down ideas that came to me. However, those notes were disjointed before. I have a little accordion file for index cards, because I tried to organize them at one point. I had different colored index cards for character sketches, settings, then different genres of story ideas.
I wasn't consistent with that, though, so I also have ideas written down in various spirals, loose-leaf sheets of paper, mini-notebooks, napkins, torn pieces of paper, etc. I kept telling myself that I would sit down one of these days and make that reorganization attempt again, but it wasn't happening.
Then I ran across an article on Lifehacker that led me to The Writer's Room, and an article about something called a Spark File, written by Steven Johnson. He talked about writing every little idea in one single notebook then reading through it on a regular basis to "spark" your thinking and creativity.
Seems obvious now, but it was something I kept putting off, not getting to. Now, however, organizing those thoughts into one place is a great help. I still have my composition books, because it helps me keep organized by story, but anything not related to one of those novels I'm working on goes in my lovely all-purpose notebook.
Since reading this, I've spoken to other people about their notebooks. One of those people was more than happy to show me her beat-up all purpose notebook, where she jots down notes and observations, as well as little snippets of writing. She was nice enough to put together a piece for the blog I edit, Writing From the Peak, on the subject.
Here's the thing, writing all those ideas down in this way doesn't just record them for you to come back to later, though that's great, too. For me, at least, writing those notes was a way to begin brainstorming, and it would escalate every time I recorded something in there. Sometimes I'd end up writing for pages, because each idea would lead me to another. And it's still like that. The all-purpose notebook can be similar at times, where if I start writing something down it will encourage more brainstorming, but it isn't to the point of my composition books, yet.
Now, I'm old school on this, using actual notebooks made of paper, but Steven Johnson uses Google so he can access it from anywhere. My phone is ancient, no internet access, so that's not an option for me, but I also prefer to use paper. If I could find a typewriter that would keep up with my typing, I'd happily type along on that sucker when I write, too. My point is, make this what you need it to be. Use whatever form you're comfortable with, but do find a method that helps get you started. I'm Queen Procrastinator, but writing down my ideas as they come has really helped me to stop what I'm doing and write it down right away, and that often gets me in the mood for taking it to the next step and getting words down on paper (or on the screen).
Do you have a notebook (or notebooks)? How do you organize your thoughts? What gets you writing?
May you find your Muse.