I have a lot of notes. You too?
I like to go places where people talk about some subject they’re passionate about, and I furiously take notes. Usually these are writers talking about words, or theologians talking about scripture, or clergy talking about the life of faith within communities. I love soaking in fire and spirit and intelligence and humor. I suppose it’s a geeky parallel to attending live theatre, concerts, or stand up comedy — the connection that comes from listening to an artist in the flesh.
While I listen I take notes because it helps me stay focused and present. Otherwise the stimulation can make me go all off-track in my own brain (which is fun in it’s own right but takes me out of the moment). As I write down what’s being said, I also have flashes of inspiration, which I try to capture as marginal notes to self that I call “fodder.”
These might be character ideas that are really just one line of dialogue. “Look how this line shows point of view!”
These might be short story ideas related to scene or plot. “What if this happened? What if this happened in a Tilt-a-Whirl?”
These might be ways of processing my past history. “So that’s how women in that generation managed! So that doctrine is really about reducing anxiety, aha!”
This summer I have been slowly uncluttering my study. I culled boxes of books. I also found my notebooks from the Festival of Faith & Writing. I have attended every FFW since 1998 (they are held every other year) and took voluminous notes. The notes are a mishmash.
The notebooks intimidated me. I debated a long time about what to do with them before I even dared open them. The truth is that I had never looked at most of the notes again, and was surprised by what I found — lots of good stuff. I decided the words were worth preserving. But how?
Instead of using Evernote on my handwriting, I decided to type them up. It sounded like a daunting chore, but what a treasure-trove! I am compiling a list of good quotes about writing from various authors. Perhaps I will tweet these in the future. I am compiling an impressive “fodder” document. Perhaps I will incorporate some of these characters or scenes or moments of insight into my current writing project.
Most importantly, I’m allowing all of this to inspire me right now. These notebooks are from the past, but they fit into my life right now. They will help form my future.
It occurs to me that I’m learning something about uncluttering, experientially. I’ve always known that uncluttering is important to the creative process because we need empty space, in our lives and in our brains. But I’m seeing a powerful benefit of uncluttering the words in these notebooks and reabsorbing them into my current life. These words are helping me “own” my life, both its history and its future. They are filling the holes that I might be tempted to fill with reading blogs, watching Netflix, or playing Sudoku.
Why would I want something that’s “out there” when I have yet to fully realize everything that’s “in here”? There is always so much Work in Progress. What is your WIP these days?