Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Don’t rely on memory!

By Pamela Moeng

Journal keeping was part of the work I was expected to do at varsity for my English Education degree. A working mother and a student, time was limited, so that journal – please forgive me, Prof! – was often done hurriedly in retrospect. I’m sure my mark reflected that too!

As a teen I kept a diary sporadically but the responsibilities of being the eldest of all the children and oldest girl and waitressing after school for pocket money kept me away from paper and pen more than I liked.

Now holding down a day job, raising a young son and guiding my grown-up daughter and stepson, and trying to be a good partner to my man mean that my writing gets shoved to the end of the list each day. I’m trying to break that nasty habit but while I still struggle with making writing time, I use a notebook to record all the things my aging mind will forget after five minutes but which I know will be the exact paragraph, sentence or phrase for a piece of writing one day soon.

For awhile I carried a tiny dog-eared notebook and a pen – that either hid in the bottom of my bag or ran out of ink at an inopportune moment. After ripping out a few too many pages and ending up with bits and bobs of paper that I squirreled away in all sorts of places, I’ve realised – for me – my Blackberry is the perfect place to record all the things I don’t want to forget.

What exactly do I record?

  • Snatches of conversation that would make convincing repartee for characters in a novel or short story
  • Descriptions of scenery, smells, tastes, sounds, feelings
  • Characterisations
  • Plot ideas
 "What if" notions which prod me to turn situations upside down and turn them inside out

 All of these things can be just the impetus to start or finish a short story or novel.

At the moment, my near-sighted eyes headed with age toward far-sightedness find reading the tiny typeface on my BB is a challenge and my fingers used to a laptop keyboard seem Goliath size on the tiny keyboard of my BB. Given that a few of my day job colleagues now have iPad2s and swear by them, I may trade my more suitable net book for one. Touch screen, here I come.

But whatever method I use to record my musings and capture those moments that might never come again doesn’t matter. What matters is that I hold captive those bits and pieces that will sooner or later enrich my writing and entice and entrance a reader.


tiah said...

Good post. I used to be avid journal keeper, then I got a blog. The pity of the blog is that it eats up journal time and there is much on the blog I don't write that I would still love to have. (I know, hard to believe, but I really do hold some stuff back).

Pamela said...

Thank you, Tiah. I appreciate the comment. Journal keeping can be a difficult habit to establish but oh so helpful for writers!

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