“Ideas shape the course of history.”
John Maynard Keynes
Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.
Steinbeck is right. There is more to ideas than just having them. You have to learn how to handle them—and there is more to that than you might think. Personally, I seem to let fiction book ideas mature for a considerable time—typically years, sometimes decades.
My personal mantra is—and has been for some time: Where do you put an idea (and recall enough to find it again)—and how do you fit them together to develop both them, and even more ideas Or do they fit themselves together as Steinbeck suggests?
Sex seems to get into everything. I have sever really thought of the creative process as explicitly sexual before—but that may explain its appeal.
Funnily enough, I have rarely worried about having ideas—except where my own interests are involved (I have become like my much loved grandmother in more than a few ways)—but I worry greatly about how to retain, nurture and organize ideas (and supporting data). I have—as they say—an eclectic memory, and a mind that takes great effort to keep even remotely organized.
I need whips and chains, I tell you! The thing is out of control!
- My Blog
- Fast Computer
- The Internet
- Chrome Browser
- Readability (software that strips ads etc. away)
- Evernote Clipper (which allows me to clip from websites)
- Evernote (where I store free text data)
- Insightly (where I keep contact details, to do list, and much else)
- Whizfolders (where I organize priorities but am slowly replacing with Insightly).
- Brother Laser Printer. (I print to remind myself. I feel vaguely guilty about it—it’s wasteful—but it works).
- Physical Filing System (I keep most stuff electronically but find paper useful for more important subjects. I like the idea of weaning myself off it, but doubt I ever will).
- Dymo Labelwriter. (Just about the only things I haven’t labeled are my label printers).
- Brother p-touch Labeler (It prints long labels suitable for ring-binder spines).
- Ring-Binders. (Ring-binders transformed the way I worked at school, and I have had a love affair with them ever since).
- Indexes (They make me feel less disorganized)
- Backup Book (A small ring-binder where I keep key addresses in case an electro-magnetic pulse—as in the case of nuclear war, for instance—zaps all my electronics. Of course, in the case of nuclear war, addresses my be irrelevant).
I seem to be developing some answers. Given that most people seem to be able to organize their lives around a Smartphone, it seems a ridiculous amount of work and infrastructure—but I guess I'm doing a bit more than tracking personal contacts and keeping a to-do list.
I have asked myself many times whether all this effort is worth it. It’s really an academic question since I’m unlikely to change (unless circumstances make me). However, I think, on balance, it is worth it.
- Ongoing research informs everything I write—and makes it easier to write, especially when combined with blogging. I just have a great deal more data to call upon, and the fact that I update it daily helps to keep it fresh. The required reading, in itself, forces me to think.
- The discipline helps to bring some order to my messy dyslexic mind. Apparently a messy mind is a good thing creatively in many ways because it promotes the ability to make connections which are less than obvious. However, it’s hard to get stuff done if you exist in a state of mental chaos, so I try and impose some order. To that end, I carry out my research in a fairly structured way—and tend to research by theme (while still keeping an eye open for the unexpected). Realistically, I research by themes and subthemes—but try not to get too granular. What might a theme be? Well, where military matters are concerned it might be MANEUVER WARFARE—where the economy is the issue it could be CAPITALISM. If the theme of KNITTING comes up, I filter it out. That said, I did feature a death by knitting-needle in GAMES OF THE HANGMAN (and researched the matter).
The missing link is, of course, a journal. Given that I seem to be able to blog every day, you would think I would manage a brief journal. Somehow, despite numerous attempts, it has always eluded me (subject to a couple of years).
Time for another try. A journal should be fundamental for a writer.