We all like to pretend that writing is a linear process; get an idea, write it down, rough it out, edit, re-edit, submit. Would that it were so.
If your writing life is anything like mine you go through starts and stops, creative and barren periods. There are weeks when I have no time to write, but keep a notebook handy because the ideas keep coming. Other times trying to come up with an idea is like catching fireflies in a bottle, but I have the time and drive to sit down and write. Of late, I’ve had some time—not a lot—to try to get myself back in the habit of writing, but I’ve had a dearth of serviceable ideas. Or at least nothing that would generate the spark to jump start my routine.
However, the same event—moving—that has sucked my time dry, may also provide a source for ideas to fuel my writing. You see, 2 days ago, while unpacking boxes I came some old journals and writing notebooks. They were filled with stories for class, responses to writing prompts/assignments, ideas that got written down and lost in the margins, and half formed stories and characters.
To be sure, not all of them are good ideas, in fact some of them are bad enough that they are probably best lost to the realm of junk that has no use, but that I will never throw out. However, as I looked over the class assignments and half-thoughts, I realized that my notebooks are full of ideas for stories.
There are good ideas that I just didn’t have the skill to write 10-20 years ago. There are ideas that moved me enough to make sure I didn’t lose them, but that I didn’t have enough time to develop them. There are stories with a good premise, that I butchered, but that now I can view with a new eye. And there are more than a few stories that were good at the time, that I can improve because now I am a more skilled writer.
I won’t slip into hyperbole and say that the notebooks have turned things around. But the next time I set aside some time to write, and getting ideas is like getting blood from a stone, I now have somewhere I can look for a little spark.