How to write (or, how not to forget your stories before you write them)
Posted on November 28, 2018
I went and saw Australian writer Markus Zusack speak at the Geelong Library a couple of weeks ago. Of many wise and witty things that he said that evening, two truly resonated with me. One was the observation that “we are born with stories attached to us”. We are not actually born as a blank slate, a tabula rasa. We come from stories. I know that my stories are deeply rooted in lands that I know and cherish.
The second thing was his telling of an anecdote about his young son, who had asked when Zusack was shirtless one day, “What are you doing out here in just your nipples, Daddy?” and Zusack had laughed, but had also thought “I could use that!”, and so he did, in his newly published book, Bridge of Clay.
A friend recently asked me if I found that when I sat down to write, that all of the ideas that I had thought of would flee? This was his own experience. I said no, that doesn’t happen to me because at home I have a notebook where I write down any idea that passes fleetingly, including lines of poems, or story concepts, or characters, or something that a not-yet-created character might one day say. I also have Evernote on my phone, for when I am out and about. If you are a writer, you have to have these things in place, or you squander the best of your creativity, which is observation, something which you are always in the act of doing, whether you realise it or not.
I was walking to pick my son up from school the other day, and I saw a flock of rainbow lorikeets rising, squawking in flight from the loquat tree that they had been raiding. I thought “I could use that” in the short story that I am writing at the moment. A week earlier the loquat fruits themselves had suggested themselves as something of a starring role in the same story. Most importantly, I wrote these things down in my notebook when I got home, and I have since woven them into my draft.
Using observation and notes not only informs your writing practice, but it also grows it exponentially.
How do you record your ideas?