If you refer to my personal schedule that we posted several months ago, you will note that on a normal weekday, I am away from my home approximately four hours. Two of those four hours, I’m on my bike and during the other two, I engage in contemplative activity. Thoughts and ideas come to me all of the time. I ride with my trusty backpack and in it, I always carry a yellow pad.
When an idea strikes me, when I read something of value, when words come to me that I want to remember, I jot them down in my pad. Similarly, I am not afraid to write and markup the books that I carry. I will annotate them, underline phrases… whatever it takes to keep an idea alive. When I return to my desk, I always review my notes.
As an example, one morning last year as I was writing Tobit and the Hoodoo Man, I sat in chapel reading The Quotable Lewis by Jerry Root. I consider Tobit a ‘wild ride’ of sorts and decided to subtitle it A Mystical Tale from the Civil War South. I stretched the boundaries of historical fiction with that story. As I read C.S. Lewis that morning, I chanced upon his comments on the miraculous. “I never regard any narrative as unhistorical simply on the ground that it includes the miraculous.” Lewis’s statement perfectly described what I wanted to accomplish with Tobit. You’ll note that the quote appears on the first page of the book directly under the title.
Story ideas, phrasing, reference… my yellow pad is open for everything.
Although all of my grown children, their spouses and my wife are avid Kindle users, I prefer to read physical books, which I will markup. I do maintain Kindle PC, Adobe Digital and Mobipocket reader on my computer. I praise these technologies for the versatility they offer users to highlight and comment on text. I suspect most of you are more ‘hi-tech’ than I am.
Whether you do it electronically or with paper and pencil, I advise all aspiring writers to have writing tools within easy reach 24/7. You must be prepared when the right idea and the right words strike you.