Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Creativity: How do you gather your bits and pieces?

Organize the bits and pieces.
I'm brushing my teeth and an image comes to mind. It's intriguing, and I feel the need to race for my computer, but I have to get ready for work. There is no time to pursue this image and the possibilities it offers.  So I head for the library catalog box I bought on eBay and take a blank index card out, and scribble the image and the beginnings of what I thought it was opening up to. I throw it behind the label marked with an "I" (for "idea": I'm into simple).

Next day I'm putting on makeup.  A conversation begins in my head (no, I'm not crazy. They're characters in a book I'm writing). Another card tossed behind "I." Then I'm getting ready for work again.  Back to the study, the index box, a blank card, scribble, toss behind "I."  Sure there is a pattern showing up here:  I ridiculously creative when I'm getting ready for work.

But you get the picture.  It's getting pretty full behind that letter. When the weekend comes or grading lets up and there isn't a multitude of todo's on my list, I'll rifle through that stack, see who has been partnering up with whom.  I'll work on a story or develop another scene.

I decided to gather these bits and pieces of subconscious rendering into something more searchable.  I have two sets of organized ideas in that drawer, those used and those waiting to be used.  My old habit was to write them in notebooks, record them to my memo app, fit scraps of notes in a pocket folder or a manilla file in a rack on my desk, wherever I could find a place to mark down my moment of inspiration.  My ideas were all over the place (some still are).

The new ones and a number of those already noted somewhere are now landing in one place ~ that old library card index box.  I have to admit I did not come up with this idea.  It is Robert A. Heinlein's.  When I read his biography by Patterson, there was mention of how he needed a system to keep track of his ideas and his published works. So he and Ginny Heinlein came up with organizing the index cards he scribbled on. He would wander around with those jottings for his current book on cards stuffed in his pocket. He'd take them out and shuffle through them when he sat down to write.

I thought if it worked for him, I might try it. I am a reasonably organized person and this simple approach fit my style. So far, it seems to be working out.  One description of an end of a story went in to the drawer.  About a week later, I went in search of it and added some details. Then two days later, I was able to sit down and work on the story.  The original note had been residing on my phone on the notepad app for more than two years.  I would recall it now and then, and forget where it was.  Gathering the bits and pieces and writing them onto the cards to place in the box dug up lots of scribbles I had forgotten, mislaid or remembered but had not been able to find. But now they are gathering in one place.

I could have entered them all into a digital organizer, and I am pretty computer savvy, but I like the tactile effort of going through them.  There is something much more intimate about the shuffling of the cards that inspires my creativity so much more than the occasional digital attempts I made to record my creative tidbits.  And my squirreling them away in all manner of places wasn't helping.  My card file seems to be working.

Do you have a way of keeping track of your inspired bits and pieces. If so, please share it.


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