Wednesday, November 13, 2019

A Journal By Any Other Name....

Does this count as a hot take? --> There are no bad ideas, just bad execution. 

To whatever degree I’m an optimist about writing and the creative process, that optimism is rooted in my belief that I can make any story work if I just spend enough time plugging away at it. That’s not to say that I never give up on ideas. But my gut tells me that the process is more about choosing which ideas I want to stick with than it is about which ideas are “good” or “bad.” (And to be clear, I’m operating here under a definition of “story idea” as something that age-appropriately conveys some truth about the human condition. Appropriateness is always a factor!)

Like a lot of writers, I’m always on the lookout for new ideas. I don’t keep a journal, per se, but I do have what I call my idea drawer, which is essentially the same thing.  

My radar is always on. As I move through the world, I’m always capturing people, snatches of dialogue, settings, situations, and other prospective story ideas. If something feels worth holding onto, I’ll scribble it down on one of my zillion small yellow legal pads and then throw it in that little drawer in my office, along with the hundreds of others I've put there over the years.  

So now, if I’m ever looking for a story idea, or for something fresh to put into a scene, or whatnot, I have this whole supply of them—all organic and locally grown—just sitting there waiting for me. 

Chances are, some very high percentage of those scribblings won't ever make their way into a story. Another bit of optimism I carry is that there will always be more ideas than there is time to write them. But just like a halfway decent insurance policy, I'm always glad to know that drawer (slash journal) is there if I need it!

SIDEBAR: In my school visits, I always encourage kids to do something similar--which is also to say, more broadly, that I encourage them to let go of any preconceived notions about what a journal might look like, and to do whatever works best for them, to arm themselves with ideas for when the story-writing time might come. This can be good advice for kids who like to write (yay, more ideas!) as well as those who don't, since coming up with an idea for a story is so often a sticking point.

Happy writing!


  1. Ooh! Love the little drawer stuffed full of idea treasures.

    1. :-) (did you ever read Mrs. Piggle Wiggle? She had a house full of secret drawers with secret treasures.... I'd like to say that inspired this drawer idea for me, but it's more like I'm just a general fan of stuff like this... :-)

  2. !!!I do the idea drawer / files, too. I've got two filing cabinets at this point...

    1. Nice! More stories than we'll EVER get around to writing....!

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  4. Idea stash, yes! I have notebooks, folders, computer files, and way too many scraps of paper. Must get organized like you :)