Writing – Hold that thought

Here I am talking to you, I’m all worked up, and still I can’t forget for a minute that I’ve got a story to finish. I see a cloud, like that one, shaped like a piano. I smell the heliotrope, I make a mental note: a sickly-sweet smell, a widow’s colour, use it to describe a summer’s evening.

Chekov, The Seagull

The Seagull is one of the most famous plays about writers and writing and neatly demonstrates the advice in today’s blog; Trigorin, one of the two writers in the play, is constantly jotting down things he sees, hears and feels so he can use them as the material for a story.

Get into the habit of immediately jotting down any thoughts and ideas that come to you. There really is little as frustrating as knowing that you had the perfect word or phrase but you can’t recall it.

When you are out and about, keep a notebook with you – heck, keep two or three. Situations that you witness; phrases that people use; snatches of dialogue you overhear that would be perfect for a character you are developing or that inspire conversation chains. Make sure you capture them all. Keep paper by the bed so that you don’t have to get up to write down inspiration first or last thing.

Now I’m not suggesting that you need to do this in an obsessive-compulsive kind of way – one of the tragic elements to the play is the fact that Trigorin is so busy observing life that he forgets to fully take part in it – but you should be disciplined.  And if a notebook doesn’t work for you use post-its, scraps of paper or whatever you prefer. I’ve phoned and left myself a voicemail or sent myself a text (which does sound pretty oddball now that I write it down!).

What I’m really saying is that you can be inspired at any time and anywhere, it’s up to you to do what you can to be ready for it.

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