Wild thoughts in the dead of night

Sometimes, thoughts just come to me. 

Doesn’t matter where I am or what I’m supposed to be doing. So, I keep notepads all over the house. There’s one by my easy chair in front of the TV. There’s one in my truck. I even have a waterproof notepad secured to the wall of my shower by suction cups (search “aqua notes” on Amazon).

I’m prepared for my wild, fleeting thoughts, if nothing else.

They are always welcome, these thoughts, but they do sometimes interrupt my sleep.

Last night, I turned in around 1:30 a.m., which is about typical for me. I generally sleep late, then stay up with the night owls reading or writing or whatever the case may be. Old habit, really, since I used to work the second shift putting the newspaper to bed. Plus, I just like to sleep in, so there.

But as soon as I turned out the light, I began to think about the novel I’ve been working on. At first it seemed like a reiteration of something I’d thought of earlier and I just shrugged it off, flipped my pillow, rolled over and tried to go to sleep. But then a second thought came into my head that I hadn’t thought about before, and I was up again in a flash. I turned on the light, seized the notebook and pen I keep handy by my bedside, and began furiously writing down both thoughts. I wound up writing about six pages.

Satisfied that the ideas wouldn’t slip away from me, I turned out the light and drifted happily back to sleep. 

And woke up again about thirty minutes later.

Another thought.

Another wild idea that I just had to write down, which I did. 

I never try to assess whether the thought is logical or will fit into what I’m working on. I just write it down so that I can look at it fresh in the morning. Even if it’s something I decide won’t fit in the novel, I hold onto it. My creative mind went to the trouble of waking me in the middle of the night with it, so I’m going to keep it. I may not use it in my current project, but it might come in handy later on. You just never know.

I’m now super tired this morning, but at least I can rest assured in the knowledge that I was being productive in my sleep.

Take note: Writing things down helps you remember

I just read an interesting info-graphic on lifehack.org about how writing affects the brain. One of the elements of the graphic mentions how writing information down stimulates a certain area of the brain to help you remember. I always thought that was the case, because taking copious notes always seems to help me remember things better.

When I was a journalist just starting out, I wrote down everything someone would tell me in an interview as quickly as I possibly could. The biggest problem was simply keeping up with them since I didn’t know shorthand. (I still don’t, though I have my own version that seems to work.) The notes were vital to helping shape the story later on, especially if you had to do something in between that delayed the actual story writing.

As I grew more experienced as a journalist, I began to listen more than I began to take notes. I listened for key phrases, quotes or information, and that’s what I wrote down. I knew all the extra stuff, while interesting, probably wouldn’t make it into the final story. I listened for context. I remember some of my sources telling me how amazed they were that I took so few notes and yet ended up with a story that was spot-on.

These days, I’m back to taking a lot of notes.

For instance, when I attended the Writer’s Digest and Screenwriters World Conference in Los Angeles this past summer, I took a notebook to a lot of the sessions. I scribbled notes into it at a fast and furious clip, even though I knew I would get the audio recordings sent to me at the conclusion of the event. I was among only a few people doing so, as many other participants simply sat and listened. Call me a geek, if you will, but I  wanted to get the most I could from the experience. Taking notes in my own way, in my own format, is just what works for me

When a thought flies into my head I try to jot it down. If it’s a story idea or an idea to add to a story I am already working on, I have to jot it down if I want any chance of remembering it later on. I don’t know if that’s because I’m on the verge of early Alzheimer’s or if it’s just because I’ve got so much on my mind. (I’m always working on a couple or three projects at a time, which might explain things.)

Are you a note-taker? Do you find yourself jotting down notes at seminars and workshops? What methods work best for you in remembering key information?