Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Loss of Ideas

I have misplaced my notebook. My writer's notebook, to be precise. Something I've carried around now for literally over a decade (I know, because I know where I was when I jotted down the first item on the first page). In this notebook go all my odds and ends, those ideas that are either about things I am working on now, or possibly might be, or just have no home beyond having popped into my head and my having determined they were worth writing down. I have even gone so far as to color code it, using different color inks depending on whether it's a short story idea, or a poetry one, or for which novel it might be intended.

(Yes, I am aware that I am more than a little odd, and possibly somewhat compulsive. But the colors are pretty, and provide me with a quick visual organizational tool.)

It also contains a list I keep of possible blog topics. And I seem to have put it someplace other than where it belongs. (This is not an excuse for why there's been almost nothing here for the past few months. I have no excuse for that, it simply didn't get done.) I have my ideas about where it might be, but for the moment those are unconfirmed. All I know is, it's not where it should be.

I could use this to reflect on both the perils and pluses of being organized. On the one hand, when you are, you know where to find things and, to my mind, your workspace looks better. On the other hand, when you put something where it doesn't belong - and it will happen, sooner or later - it can result in a fair amount of disorientation. I know my notebook is in the house, somewhere, and I have a couple of guesses as to where those somewheres might be. Regardless, it's going to take some searching for, most likely done while wearing a very perplexed expression on my face.

Story elements can get misplaced, too. I am not someone who outlines, as for the most part I don't find them useful. Before I get much beyond a chapter or two in a novel, whatever I had outlined will be long since detoured away from. Certain things do have their place, though, and if you put them down somewhere else, it can take you off on tangents that you didn't want to go on, far away from the crux of your story. I have had this happen in a couple of stories. A line of dialog, no matter how well crafted, just doesn't fit. Or a scene. Or a confrontation. Or, heck, an entire sub-plot. Though it's been a while since I've mislaid a sub-plot.

Which, yes, I recognize may be an argument for outlining, and one may wonder why someone who color codes his idea notebook - nay, buys different color pens specifically for the purpose of color coding his idea notebook - does not find outlining useful. To which I answer: life is full of things that don't make sense.

Like my notebook, eventually these misplaced elements turn up, often during revision. And like my notebook, once found, they will then be returned to their proper place - which, unlike my notebook, includes the option of the great big idea folder in the sky. Not all misplaced elements get a home. Some, sadly, are deleted. Eventually. Most of them find homes, though. They will end up where they fit, where they belong, so that I can sit back, with satisfaction, and revel in how neat and organized it all is.

Until the next time it happens, of course.

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