I'm wondering if writers should have a similar instinct.
A writer friend of mine posed an interesting question the other day: Do you ever hold back really good lines, metaphors, etc. from your blog posts or social correspondence so you can use them in your stories?
My initial reaction was, "Of course not, I write in the moment! If the words make the long commute from my brain to fingertips, I'm shooting them off like celebratory creative fireworks! My readers deserve only my best, after all." Actually, I wish that had been my response ...
I really said something like, "I don't think I'd remember it later, so I just use whatever comes to me and hope I think of something equally good the next time."
Like most writers, I always (ALWAYS) secretly fear there won't be a next time.
If you've dabbled at the word game long enough you realize that creative juice can have an incredibly short shelf-life. What flows tasty and free tonight can go sour by morning, often with very little provocation or warning. That isn't to say I believe in writer's block. No, I don't think there's some kind of mental barrier that springs up like a wart in our minds, preventing us from writing until it somehow dissolves.
I do think we sometimes don't feel like pushing our brains into that fringe creative area, or maybe even forget how to do it for a time. That's probably what separates hobby writers from daily writers. The hobby writer wanders off until their brain gets hungry enough to come back around; the daily writer puts out some bait and lures the sucker into a trap--forcing it to work. Figuring out what bait to use is often the trick.
Understanding that inspiration can be fickle, is there some merit to holding onto the really good stuff? Saving your best for your most important moments, as it were. It certainly seems so.
There are probably only so many great similes and metaphors to be had, and it's just a matter of time until someone else comes up with it. Unfortunately, constantly tucking the good stuff away might lead to some really bland blogs. I've been considering some options and they are:
- Keep a journal or blank Word document handy to scribble down the good stuff when it comes. Lots of writers journal, but most use them for story ideas, not great sentences or thoughts. If you're ever stuck in your writing, break it out and get inspired by your own genius. (You can do this with the good stuff you actually use as well.)
- Many cell phones have voice recording options, so you can use that as an auditory record. If you don't have a recorder, just call your own voice mail box and leave yourself a message. (WARNING: This may make you appear VERY crazy and/or unstable to friends and loved ones.)
- When inspiration hits, we're often so caught up in moving to the next bit that we don't fully utilize or explore what's there. Consider jotting down that great phrase, etc. and then forcing yourself to write two or three more along the same lines. Use one and keep the others for future use. It'll add some time to whatever you're working on, but it might pay off later.
- When I'm writing blog posts I often write two or three paragraphs that don't get used simply because the idea for the post changes as I go. Instead of tossing them out I plan on saving them (if they're good) for fodder for future posts and the like.
Do you save your best? If so, how do you do it? (Journal, etc.) Is it something you'd consider doing?