The Idea Dump

That’s me swooping in to pick up an idea for a story. Image source.

I have a folder. This folder is sitting on the hard drive of my new computer and it’s origin lies somewhere in the depths of either the early days of my first laptop or the last days of my desktop.

It’s the Idea Dump.

It has a couple of companion spiral notebooks and far too many offspring comprised of bits of paper that float around my office, in my briefcase, in the car, my office, on the mantle above the fireplace or the shelve on either side of it. 90% of these notes are of the “what if” variety or they’re a snatch of conversation or a phrase that caught my ear on the radio or at a restaurant or on TV.

Often these things are the thoughts I have when I see a writer throw away an idea that’s worth exploring but maybe not in the context of the story I heard it in. I suppose I collect such things. Or you could say I do if that pleases you better.

The Idea Dump is where I went last November when I was building the bits of the world and its story that I was writing for NaNoWriMo. I finished off one spiral notebook importing all sorts of notes into it so I’d have a handy reference while I was writing. As I used a bit of something I crossed it off.

That’s actually really satisfying, in case you were wondering.

If I spent the time going back to count the number of ideas I’ve got written down on paper and in the Idea Dump, I’d lose a week’s worth of writing time. There’s a lot.

Not all of them are good, which is why I named it a dump. I hope there’s gold somewhere in those hills, but if I think of it as more of a landfill than a goldmine I’ll not be married to all of them, they won’t seem quite so precious and that allows me to use them as I need them which is likely different than my original intent when I wrote them down.

I am envious of writers who don’t have to write things down, who have the time to just sit and type all day and explore what’s on their minds in a piece of fiction. I can’t do that. At least not yet. I’m hoping to win the lottery so that I can be a full-time writer but in the meantime the cats have to eat and my wife prefers to have a roof over our heads. Ideas don’t keep us warm at night, I guess.

So I write things down so I don’t forget them. The act of writing them down makes room in my head for more, as one idea will always inspire another. Always. I’m not afraid of ever running out of ideas or of having things to talk about.

There’s another folder on the hard drive, though, that has a number of aborted attempts at storytelling. I couldn’t count the number of bodies there because some of them may come back to life. I mean fully to life, not a kind of zombie half-life. I don’t write zombies. I don’t write vampires, either. Angels and devils, yeah, but if you’d see it on True Blood, I probably won’t do it. Or at least not for a while and certainly not in any kind of popular style.

So the Idea Dump isn’t overflowing but it’s not static, either. It’s a dynamic place where things come and go, where one can wander around for any length of time and see what was. I can also combine anything that’s there like a set of Legos to build something new.

The possibilities are infinite.

Jason Arnett is a storyteller living in Kansas and writing in the plains of the fantastic. Some of his work can be found at www.jasonarnett.com

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