The Writers Circle: Old Notebooks, New Ideas

One of our goals here at Today’s Author is to help all of the writers among us to do what we love to do: write. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by talking to each other and learning from each other.  Our Writers Circle series is designed to do just that – provide a chance for us to discuss writing, editing and publishing questions.

This week’s topic is:

As a writer, you’ve likely started some stories and stopped–giving up due to a lack of ideas or a lack of passion for the story.  Many writers never throw these false starts away, instead keeping the old notebooks buried in the bottom of a drawer or in a box in the basement. If you are one of these writers who keeps everything you’ve written, do you go back and look through those old notebooks from time to time? Have you ever re-started a story you’d abandoned long ago or mined the old notebooks for new story ideas?

Let’s discuss this in the comments and see what our community thinks.

Gone But Not Forgotten

OldBooksAlmost everything that I wrote more than fifteen years ago no longer exists.  The box containing my old notebooks and any school assignments I’d deemed worth saving disappeared during a cross country move.  The world is probably a better place because of this.

A few things do survive—certain papers or stories that for one reason or another were transcribed to computer and managed to survive the steady upgrade of computers over the years.  When I read these few survivors I cringe.

It’s not that my writing was bad, it was just….  It was unpolished, adjective-heavy, repetitive, sparse on meaningful description, and plot laden.  It was young.

But—and this is important—it was full of ideas, and it was full of excitement.

As an adult, I’m better at taking a random idea—i.e., a writing prompt—and with time and patience working that into something useful.  I’m better at revising a raw rough draft and molding it into something polished.  But what I’m missing now, what those early books were full of, were ideas that sprung completely from my own head—ideas that I was passionate about developing.

Sure, some of those ideas have hung around.  The ones I spent more time trying to tame were repeated enough that they are at least partially committed to memory.  But when I think back to the ideas I lost, I find myself wishing that I was able to revisit some of the crazier ideas with the honed skills I have now.

Do you still have the stories, notebooks or ideas you came up with in your past?  How far back?  Do you find them helpful, or do they just make you cringe?

I’d love to hear your answers in the comments—or pop over to the Today’s Author Forum and talk about it with other writers.

Notebooks and pens and cramps, oh my!

Purple V5 Pilot Precise and a Moleskine notebook

One of my favorite ways of writing is the notebook. There’s a few reasons for this; primarily, it’s because when I write at my computer, my ADD kicks in and there are a million things that need to be done. I need to check NaNoWriMo forums, or my email, or a chat window pops up from a friend or client, or… any of a million things.

Notebooks take me away from all that. I can curl up on the couch, pop in some earbuds, tuck my feet under my butt, and write more or less distraction free. If something bothers me, I can pick up and move. If the power goes out, it’s okay… I can keep writing without the need for a battery backup.

I’m particular, though. I prefer journal-sized notebooks. Especially Moleskines. They have the right weight of paper, and are the perfect size to drop in my purse and go (although these days, my purse is large enough to accommodate a small child). I can’t tell you how many words I’ve churned out waiting at a doctor’s office or surreptitiously when I should be paying attention to other things. Like church.

The problem with all of this is my pen obsession. I have a deep-rooted love of the Pilot precise line of pens. They were the pens my father used, and when he died, it became almost a religious need to own and use them. Not only are they consistently even pens throughout their life, fun to use, and easy on my arthritic fingers, they remind me of my father. It’s a way to stay connected to him, even though I haven’t been able to talk to him since I was 15. I’ve even branched out from my default Pilot Precise V5 black to green, pink, red, or my favorites, dark blue and purple.

And I will fully admit it: I harbor hopes of rivaling J.K. Rowling in my success, and perhaps I can auction off one of my handwritten masterpieces for charity when I get rich and famous. Imagine how much the handwritten version of Harry Potter would sell for at auction!

The most important tool in my writing toolbox isn’t a tangible one at all, though. It’s an exercise routine. When I’m really in the grips of writing fury, my wrists will cramp, and my carpal tunnel will kick up something fierce. So solid exercises which stretch and strengthen my wrists are critical! I have mild arthritis in my hands and wrists, so it’s important that I stay on top of this or the pain gets worse than an ibuprofen or two can handle. Doing a full-body exercise routine (I’m a huge fan of yoga, and recently started DDP Yoga) helps reduce the stiffness and pain that can result from long periods of sitting in one position, writing furiously. This is doubly true if you are writing on the computer; we tend to sit in less-than-ergonomic ways that leave our bodies sore.

So no matter how you choose to write, be it by hand in a notebook, on the computer, or by carving your deathless prose in a stone tablet in your back yard, take care of your body. Writing may not be a contact sport, but if not conducted properly, can result in injury nonetheless, as I learned much to my chagrin the year I wrote 50,000 words in 10 days during NaNoWriMo.