Ideas that stick around

I was recently watching a YouTube clip where Stephen King answered questions about his approach to writing. When questioned about the use of notebooks, he had this to say,

"People say do you keep a notebook? And the answer is I think a writer's notebook is the best way in the world to immortalise bad ideas. My idea about a good idea is one that sticks around and sticks around and sticks around. To me, it's like if you were to put breadcrumbs in a strainer and shake it, which is what the passage of time is for me. It's like shaking a strainer, all this stuff that's not very big and not very important just kind of dissolves and falls out. But the good stuff stays, you know the big pieces stay."

He then goes on to talk about how he had the idea for 'Under The Dome' when he was teaching high school in 1973 and how the idea was 'too big' for him and he was too young for it. He wrote about twenty five pages of the idea and put it away. We now know that the idea did indeed stick around and become a highly successful novel and TV series.

Personally, I love the idea of using notebooks, my journal, a note app on my mobile, and the occasional napkin to record ideas that come to me but I also understand what he means about ideas that 'stick around'.

The novel I'm working on, Haven Falling, is an idea that has stuck around. No matter how many diversions and distractions crop up, I always return to writing it. I have a multitude of notes, in all kind of formats, about the novel but a large part of the idea lives in my mind. In the same way that we don't have to recall the characteristics of our friends, the world of my novel exists as a richly recalled image.

So which side of this fence do you fall on? Notebook or mind palace or, like me, a combination of both?

You can find the full Stephen King interview here.


  1. I think I'm a combination of both too. I have a notebook for ideas, but the ones that won't leave me alone are the ones I write.


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