Today’s installment on The Art of Procrastination is cross-posted from my blog here, because I’m super not interested in writing five blog posts this week. Fair warning, there will be moments of language.
The Importance of Note Taking: A Cautionary Tale.
The list of projects I could walk you through, that died on the vine due to my inability to take appropriate notes is just… It’s staggering, honestly. I have entire books that I stopped 20k from the end of that I can’t finish because I don’t remember where they were going anywhere. I have projects I started and did all the world building for but didn’t bother to write down the actual plot–that’s the easy part, why would I write that?–that may never see the light of day.
I mourn them. Any one of them could have been it. It could have been the book that revives The Great American Novel. The book that made me the darling of Sophomore English teachers everywhere. The book that–
You’re right. That got a little out of hand.
The point is, creative people are fucking ace at building the project that never happened into the one. I hear this from people all the time. I had the greatest book idea once, but I didn’t write it down. And this isn’t the part where I turn into a giant hypocrite and tell you not to do that. That it’s wrong to trumpet about your lost swans of awesome. It is. And also, I promise you, annoying as shit to literally everyone else in existence. But I’m not going to tell you that. Nope nope nope.
I’m going to tell us that.
Some things are universal to the creative experience. I suspect a certain propensity for whinging might be one of those things. Also, a certain lack of planning. But that’s good. We know this. We know we don’t always think ideas through all the way, and we don’t always plan enough in advance. We know wherest our dragons reside, we can avoid them if we cannot outright smite them.
Step One to Avoiding the Dragons:
When you tell yourself you don’t need to write it down because it’s so brilliant you will remember? You are a dirty, dirty liar who lies. Write it down. No, I don’t care. Write it in lipstick on your forehead. No excuses. Avoid the Dragon.
Step Two to Avoiding the Dragons:
Carry a notebook. Get an app for your phone. Shove napkins into your pockets and steal bank pens. I personally am pretty fond of Evernote, my husband carries a moleskin and sharpie pen for his crazy inventor moments. I wrote the first three chapters of a book on bits of left over receipt paper while I was supposed to be working, once. As high tech or low tech as you want it, Step One works a lot better if you’ve got something handy to take a note with.
Step Three to Avoiding the Dragons:
NO EXCUSES! Seriously. The impetus for this post comes from the fact I was getting out of the shower and figured I’d write it down later. There is no later. I don’t care how crazy you look. Do it!
Step Four to Avoiding the Dragons:
Pay attention to the quixotic, seasonal nature of your dragons. When I first started writing, my Alpha Dragon was unhealthy editing habits that meant I was never actually writing. Then my Alpha Dragon was leaving incomprehensible editing notes, because clearly I’d remember when I got there. At the moment, my Alpha Dragon is probably the ellipsis. But I know that and I’m working on it. Once that’s done, I’m sure they’re be something new. Probably my tendency to rehash the same themes over and over.
Step Five to Avoid the Dragons:
Don’t let The Fish Story get in the way of actual work. In all things in life, the best you can do with a failure is to learn from it. Embrace the Fish Story. Extract the bits of it that make you feel like it could have been the one (if you can remember them). And then move on.
There you have it. Beware the Dragons.