If you write, you’re a writer, says Julia Cameron, author of “The Right to Write.” But the command to “just write” can so easily make a creative mind freeze up. “Write what?” we ask, pen poised, laptop humming.
Hunter S. Thompson said the secret to good writing is good notes. My secret to good notes is an Idea Book.
An Idea Book is not a scrap of paper at the bottom of your purse or briefcase. It is not a napkin from the lunchroom that will end up an illegible, soggy wad after going through the wash. It is a pocket-, purse-, or briefcase-friendly treasure chest of snippets and starts. You must take it everywhere, so it helps if it looks and feels appealing. Mine is red faux crocodile leather with a handy envelope in the back and a red ribbon to mark my place.
Write down what you see when you see it: the lady picking her nose in traffic during rush hour (your handwriting will wobble but you’ll master note-taking at stoplights). The dialog you overheard while walking the dog that says so much about the suburban couple. The teenager at the gas station. The outrageous headline. The memory of the lake you went to as a kid or when you learned how to drive a car.
Go back to those one-line notes when you sit down at your desk or the coffee shop table and your mind threatens to go blank. Open at random and write for ten minutes. Sometimes you will be inspired, sometimes you won’t. Write anyway. Write all of the details that really were. Leap into fiction and write all you can imagine.
There is a story in everything. All a writer has to do is take note.