Prepare for Inspiration

Howard Shipley author

Once upon a time, many moons ago, I, in fact, was a Cub Scout. Of course, we rehearsed the motto: Be Prepared. This doesn’t apply just to Boy Scouts. Writer’s can benefit from this advice as well and it is easier today than ever to Be Prepared.

While each writer is different in many respects, a single commonality we share is the spontaneity of inspiration. We neither know when nor where it will strike. In my case, it typically smacks me in the face while driving down the road or out for a walk or anywhere else doing anything else besides sitting in front of my computer.

I have learned over the years, the most infallible part of me is my memory. In years past, when this inspiration struck, I would wait until I returned to my computer to record the thought. You guessed it. By that point, there was nothing left to record. My mind had returned to its blank state. A new plan was in order.

Enter stage left: a trusty notebook and camera. This dynamic duo proved to a useful addition to my writer’s toolkit. Now, when ideas came leaping up from beside the road, I was prepared to write them down. Or in certain instances when the inspiration was visual in nature, I could snap a photo like the one above. Full disclosure, another vital component of my writer’s toolkit is a dependable support staff. This dilapidated old home, in fact, sat mere feet from the roadside during a particularly busy time of the day. I was able to pull off the road into a very narrow and overgrown depression on the side of the road–barely out of the flow of traffic. My wife, with the camera at the ready, snapped a few quick shots before we were able to renegotiate back to the roadway and head on our merry way. Now, I have this image for reference in developing a setting for a short story I am working on.

The single drawback to this useful couplet: my failing brain. Many times I fail to have either piece of equipment with me. However, all is not lost. Remember, when I mentioned being prepared was easier than ever for writer’s today? I have met few people writer or not who leave home without their trusty cellphone.

With today’s technology, that single cellphone can accomplish the job of both a notebook and camera. There is any number of note-taking apps on the market today: Colornote, Evernote, Fairnote, OneNote, and many other variations of Note with free and paid versions available. Additionally, it is almost unheard of to find a phone today that doesn’t have a camera. Therefore, every writer or potential writer should have this toolkit available to them at all times.

I have to disclose, however, that while I am new to the world of getting my works published, I am a proverbial dinosaur. I have some of these apps on my phone (Evernote and OneNote), yet I have never used them. I simply can’t bring myself to do it. I prefer to keep my research notes written out in a physical notebook. Don’t get me wrong, I am not anti-electronic. I do all of my writing in Word and am in the process of transitioning to Scrivener, but there is just something about having a physical notebook to be able to reference. So, how do I solve my recurring dilemma when I forget my notebook? I send myself texts (or if the trusty support crew of my wife is available, she sends me texts) which I write down in my notebook as soon as I am reunited with it. Archaic, yes, but it’s what works for me.

That is the key. Each individual writer must learn and determine what works best for them. The need will arise when you need to take notes or snap a photo to jog your memory for that story idea later. Decide now what you will have in your arsenal to handle this dilemma before it arises. Then you, too, will Be Prepared. You never know what or when Chaos will throw a new idea your way.