still waters run deep and blank pages aren't necessarily empty

Posted on Posted in illustrated, journal, where do you get your ideas, writers is nuts, writing life

I've always kept a collection of short story ideas. For a few years now it's been in SimpleNote (so I can access it via my work computer or my phone when on the go; and my home computer has Notational Velocity set to communicate with SimpleNote and also to save its files in a spot where Scrivener looks for its scratchpad notes, so any random idea can be imported into Scrivener with a single click).

So when I set up my new bullet journal earlier this month, I naturally gave myself two blank pages to act as a capture point for any stray ideas.


I can't help but notice that we're now into the second half of October, and the page remains blank.

Used to be I would slavishly record every single stray mutter my brain sent my way. The habit was probably one part fear I'd have no ideas ready for the next story, and one part insatiable curiosity/daydreaming/call it what you will.

I'm not sure exactly what's changed. (I do know it changed some time ago; it's just that my previous, all-electronic set-up hid from me how infrequently I'd been utilising it, whereas the blank page in my otherwise scribbled through journal is starkly obvious.)

It's not that I don't get ideas on a near-momentary basis — there was one not two days gone about hair and growth rates, for example; and I spent a good portion of time mentally chasing down the future society that might be built around the seed of this stray "what if…?"

It's just that, now, after considering the ideas, I'm more likely than not to let them go. Release them back into the wind that dropped them into my head and let them skittle on their tumbleweed way.

I'm time-poor (aren't we all?), of course, but I suppose I've also spent enough time chasing down ideas to know something of what I'm looking for. It needs to resonate with me (not necessarily positively), and to be something I am or can be obsessively passionate about, to be worth all the effort it'll inevitably demand. It needs to be the sort of idea I won't forget because it will nag me too much to let me. And all those little adjunct ideas … I guess I've just taken to trusting that they'll pop back up when and if their moment arises.

I remember once, at Clarion South or perhaps a year or two after, Sean Williams saying to me that experience under his belt had made him better at judging which ideas would sustain the weight of a story. I envied the talent, at the time, enmeshed as I was in starting lots of stories which vanished out from under me — but I think I may now, without quite noticing or realising it, have acquired it for myself.