I’ve been writing professionally for a decade, and one of the things that’s really developed in my technique is that I’m always interpreting the world through writing, 100% of the time. I make dozens of notes on my phone throughout the day, when things I read/see/watch/do/hear remind me of my projects.
This could be anything from a discussion on social media about how someone processed grief, a moment of emotion in fic, a visual framing device in a TV show, a description of food in a recipe book, a song that reminds me of a character’s starting emotional point, a good word or odd way of phrasing a sentiment that comes across as quirky, and literally hundreds of other things. I’m filtering everything that catches my attention at all through the eight or so projects I have on-the-go, until it clicks into place. Almost always, it fits into one of the projects somehow – because that’s why it caught my attention.
Yesterday I was listening to a song on repeat, and stopped to wonder why – and ended up writing 1,000 words of a character’s diary entry. But in the vast majority of cases, I don’t go back and look at those notes for many weeks. When I go back to work on a project, the first thing I do is copy those notes from my phone app over to a Word document, and turn them into the snippets of dialogue or prose I imagined them being useful for. Then I build the story around that framework.
This automatic world-filtering is something I’ve only started doing instinctively in the last few years. I used to have to intentionally ‘seek out’ these moments of resonance, as I started a new project. It was a whole stage in the process, before I could start writing. But I’ve somehow trained my brain to do it automatically, as soon as the project is first concrete in my plans. It’s so, so useful, and I really recommend thinking more consciously about how you process media if you’re a writer – you’ll be thankful you did so, in a decade or so!
(I use Workflowy bullet point lists to record my notes.)
I speak to climate activists and scientists about climate change and Green Rising in an interview here: