When I was in grad school I always carried a tiny Moleskine notebook with me in my purse so I could jot down story ideas that struck me during inopportune moments. I’d write a line here, a word there, sometimes an image, and then when I’d sit down to write I’d leaf through my notebook to see what had come to me throughout my week and what I could use. Sometimes it would take me a moment to remember what exactly the line, word, or image had sprung from and what I needed to do with it. I distinctly remember the one time I sat in a coffee shop with an open Word document that watched me disdainfully, with its white judgmental glare, while I tried to remember why in the world I wrote “lollipops and cults.” I thought about how awful it would be if I ever lost my little notebook and what someone who found it would think. “The person this notebook belonged to is bonkers,” they’d think. “Off her rocker.” “Sick in the head.”
But really, who says bonkers anymore? I didn’t care. I’ve always found that I remember things better if I write them down, which is why I still buy a new day planner every year, despite the fact that I have an iPhone, MacBook Pro, and access to every electronic planner known to man. While I never did remember the lollipop and cults story, my little book of crazy proved to be quite useful most of the time. My short story, “Oh, The Grandeur!” (there’s a little Andrew Bird’s Bowl of Fire reference for you) was born from a single note on a page of my Book of Crazy–“Graveyards. Smells like snails.” Another one, “Fish Don’t Have Feelings,” also came from my book of crazy, in which I wrote the title before I even had the story and the title ended up being all I needed to spit that story out in a few hours.
Shortly after I finished grad school, I lost my Book of Crazy. I had never lost anything from my purse in my life. Everything else was still there–my wallet, checkbook, hairbrush, lip gloss, the odd stick of gum, receipts, a bottle of Advil–but my Book of Crazy was gone. I searched everywhere I could think of for it and never found it. This happened a few years ago and I never bought a replacement. I’ve been trying to use the Notes function on my iPhone to jot ideas, but quite honestly, none of them have yielded anything fruitful. It’s not the same.
But, wouldn’t you know, the other day I was organizing my desk at home (a task that was long overdue) and found a brand new blank Moleskine notebook, identical to my Book of Crazy, buried in a drawer underneath some address labels that I got for free for donating a small amount of money to the March of Dimes. I had forgotten that when I bought my Book of Crazy it came in a pack of two. It had a brother I had forgotten all about that had just been waiting for me in that neglected drawer for years.
I don’t plan on losing this one.
How do you keep track of your story ideas?