The Big Argument: To Note or Not To Note?

I’ve seen a lot of posts, videos and other assorted internet errata about the subject of taking notes as it relates to writers. There seem to be two camps, both fairly firmly entrenched and neither really interested in budging or discussing it… which seems somewhat ironic, given that the camps both spring from differing views of creative writing exercises, which would seem to be centered on the point of sharing and discussing ideas.

Camp #1 (we’ll call them the Noteworthies) seems to be of the opinion that a writer absolutely must always have a notebook or other means of jotting things down at hand at all times, and every time a thought occurs to them, they should scribble it down. The idea is that inspiration can strike from nearly any source, and given our fragile little human minds and the nature of memory, we’re liable to forget that amazing idea before we sit down at our desks to turn it into the next best-seller. I can see their point, to a degree; I’m having a good day sometimes if I can remember my PIN, if I put on clean socks, and what I came to the grocery store for.

Camp #2 (I shall dub them the Opendoorists) believe that carrying a notebook around is a great idea… if you want to clog your creative mechanics with a bunch of half-baked, half-realized concepts that ultimately go nowhere. While they concede that inspiration can indeed come from nearly any source, they take a different viewpoint; they say that if an idea, concept or inspiration is really good enough for that next bestseller, it’s not going to just evaporate three seconds after you have it. It’s going to keep knocking, keep ringing the bell until you finally open the door and let it in, so to speak. The “bad” or as-yet unusable ideas are going to sift down into your subconscious and maybe pop back out when they decide what to do with themselves, leaving you free to concentrate on the ideas that bludgeon you over the head until you let them have their say. I tend to me more in this camp, personally – though unlike many Opendoorists, I don’t necessarily object to a quick jot on a scrap paper (or, more likely, the Notepad app on my phone) – but I think it’s potentially just as damaging as noting everything. Noting nothing at all means that, while your subconscious may be happily bubbling away while your forebrain is contemplating the ideas that won’t leave it alone, you may miss the dangling threads of interest that might not be bestsellers on their own, but might be useful addenda to the ideas that do bludgeon down the door to your creative mind.

So, while I officially proclaim myself an Opendoorist, I have a certain sympathy and understanding for a Noteworthy… but what about the rest of you? Which camp claims you? Why? What would you do – what might you create – if for some reason you turned traitor, as it were, even just for a bit? Something to contemplate.


4 responses to “The Big Argument: To Note or Not To Note?

    • Seems to be that way for me, at least… but I’m also a severe “pantser,” so they may go hand in hand; do you do a lot of plotting before settling down to actually write, or do you just throw words at the page and see what sticks, out of curiosity?

      Thanks for the reply! XD

  1. 🙂 I am inclined not to do too much plotting. When I tried that the story was too mechanical, and didn’t flow, instead I take the scene that nags at me in a daydream and just go with that. It doesn’t even feel like I am writing it, it comes to me when I am in a dream like state. What about you?

    • I don’t know that I’d call it a dreamlike state, but I’m definitely “somewhere else” when the writing is going well. Usually “tuned in” to one of my characters, and probably ignoring anything that isn’t occurring on the screen, notepad or tablet. XD

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