On wrestling with the voices in your head

Image: Crawford Ifland

The latest exchange from my irregular, random, experimental, wackydaisical Q&A (which you can submit your questions to here).

I was told I should be a novelist for the first time when I was about 7 or 8 years old and always wrote poetry and short stories. But I’m approaching the end of my 30’s, and have never given myself the chance to see if I could be a “real” writer due to various tragic circumstances. I would love to learn how to organize the myriad thoughts that run through my head at any given time and try to accomplish something meaningful. I’m not sure if you can help, but I figured I could just ask.

Hey Vicky,

First of all, let’s get one thing out of the way. You ARE a ‘real writer’:)

See, here’s where a lot of people get crossed up. It started in the early 40’s when writers became ‘famous people’. People like Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and London — they were public figures that were larger than life.

Before that, people just wrote because it’s… what we did. We wrote letters and carried notebooks and kept journals. And then, the meaning of ‘writer’ became ‘famous person who writes things for the masses (and for a lot of money)’.

So now that’s out of the way — to answer your question about organizing your thoughts, I can only tell you what I do, but it may help. I use the generic ‘Notes’ app in my iPhone. I have a notepad on there titled ‘blog ideas’. Whenever the gods implant a teeny tiny (or a huge) seed of a thought in my mind, I get it down there ASAP. Or, if I’m around Medium, I’ll start a new draft and just write it super rough with whatever I’m thinking.

Sometimes these come as a flood. I can’t write them down fast enough. But sometimes, I’ll have dry spells (which is why I’m sure to not take those floods for granted).

Once they’re down on digital (or toilet) paper — whatever’s handy — I’ll usually walk away. When I come back, I’m able to clean it up and finish it.

The bugger is, sometimes, by then, the idea has died. This is the way it goes. And it’s why it helps to put every single one down that you can since you know you’ll be killing some of these babies.

Really, you just have to start. Learn to love the process. Your mind will figure out how to arrange them. You’ll soon be doing it the way that works best for you. But the key is to just get them out there so you can work with them.

Here’s to wrestling those voices, Vicky.

Have a Q? I probably have an A. Let me take a crack at it here.

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