Breadcrumbs

I’m always super-curious about how other writers actually write, and how their brains work. While I was struggling to get started with my book, it’s how I distracted myself – looking up writers’ habits and tips. Unlike my many other forms of random time-wasting, seeking out this information actually inspired me. It helped me get started on my book. It was like a permission slip, finally knowing that it was OK to write however I needed to write.

There is no magic to the formula. It is work. You must work. You must find a way to work.

Morning writing, evening writing, standing up, sitting down, one cup of coffee or four, longhand, laptop, index cards, scotch tape and scissors – there are so many styles, so many ways to do it. There is no right way. There’s only your way.

It can take some time to find your way and settle into it.

Some people settle into a style and are committed to it from the start, others experiment around – different notebooks, pens, computer programs, ways to stay organized. I definitely fell into the latter category – I tried a bunch of stuff.  ADD, meet OCD.

While I worried about the “right” way to write, I was also leaving myself a lot of clues over the years. I have boxes and boxes of old journals, college papers, printed out emails, the various documents of life. I have online accounts, too that are equivalent to those boxes.

I think of all that as “breadcrumbs in the forest”.  All of these random bits are helping me as a writer. They are helping me write this memoir.

They are going to help me write future books.

(and, for whatever reason, it’s breadcrumbs, not pebbles. They stay on the ground where I leave them. The wild animals in my imaginary forest don’t like breadcrumbs. I feel like you needed to know that, dear reader.)

So, I’ve finally settled into a routine. I usually write in the mornings.  I review my breadcrumbs at night, and I wake up early to work on the next thing.  If I can’t get the words in the morning, then I force myself to find time during the day to work on it.

For my analog journal writing, I use a stiff backed, quad-ruled composition book. Its sturdy, cheap, and it fits in my purse. If I have a free 10 or 15 minutes, I jot down my feelings here, my day, my troubles, the things of life good and bad. Quad rule keeps me open and flowing, for some reason. I don’t journal every single day. A few times a week seems to keep me on track and in-touch with myself. I’ve been doing it this way for years. Now I have a pretty little row of trusty notebooks.

Fancy notebooks seem too dainty for the weight they’ll bear. My sturdy composition books are built for the heavy breadcrumbs.

I also keep a notebook handy near my desk to jot down ideas, article citations, lists of things, resources and random bits that I want to follow up on. Agent names, books to read, concepts or theories.  I don’t want to use my regular journal to capture these ideas – so I keep another notebook. Usually cheap and wirebound.  When it fills up, I review it and start a new one.

More breadcrumbs.

My third tool is the almighty Evernote.

Everything changed for me as a writer when I started using Evernote. The one thing I hear from new writers that I talk to is that they “need to get all of their writing into one place”. I don’t know exactly what that means for them, but for me, the solution was Evernote.

I used the free version for about a year, and it is perfectly functional and awesome. I upgraded and became a paying customer about 5 years ago, and I’m happy. So happy. I use Evernote every single day.

Evernote is my online brain. I can access is from anywhere with an internet connection. I use it on my phone, my desktop, my laptop, and various work computers.

I do most of my idea-capturing, research, writing, and document storage on Evernote. It has a web-clipper tool for your browser – so it’s stupidly easy to save stuff from the web. PDF’s, even.

Evernote has a really decent word processor. I write my blog posts here. I also draft scenes for my book . I cut and paste them into Word as I go.

Then, I save my Word document back to Evernote.

If my hard drive crashes, I’ve got all of my writing and research backed up and accessible anywhere. If I’m so inclined, I can pull up my entire book, right from my phone, and read and edit what I’ve written. I can also take notes right on my phone in Evernote, and all that is saved for me.

I’ve got a writing career ahead of me from all the breadcrumbs, I’m sure of it. And,  I’m committed to leaving clues now for my future self.

Meanwhile, my current self is grateful to my past self for struggling to keep all of those breadcrumbs. Once they process back through my writing brain, they transmutate, and become pure gold.

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