About a week ago, I saw a fabulous one-hour special on PBS featuring David Suchet, the acclaimed actor who has portrayed Agatha Christie’s Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot. Unfortunately, I only caught the last half of it, but the gist is that David Suchet interviewed people affiliated with Christie about her life and in particular, her mysterious disappearance. (Agatha’s disappearance must have been in the air last week — incidentally that same week, my daughter watched the Dr. Who episode where David Tennant aka Dr. Who tries to solve the mystery of Agatha Christie’s infamous disappearance.)
No one ever discovered what really happened (not even the Doctor :)) but the program revealed a lot of interesting personal details about Christie’s life, including the discovery of several notebooks she kept for each of her novels. One of the most fascinating things to me was that she used the notebooks for dual purposes — she also kept household accounts in them. Apparently, she kept these notebooks scattered around the house for when inspiration struck. Does this ring true with anyone else? I’ve got notebooks everywhere. Pictured above is one that I keep in my bag when I’m going about the day. How cool is it that the notebook has an Alfred Hitchcock quote” “Ideas come from everywhere.”
I’ve also got my digital “on the cloud” stuff too. (More on that in a bit).
Agatha Christie’s notebooks were of the basic stationery store variety and they were exciting because you could see her thought process in the notations — character name changes, plot changes, etc.. Her “efficiency” was questioned by the hosts of the program, but I don’t see it that way. I’m a mother trying to take care of kids and a house at the same time and I’ve been known to write grocery lists next to outlines in my own writing notebooks. Does it really matter if you have mundane household matters included in the same book? Hey, at least everything is in one place and you know where to look. Her method actually seems efficient to me but it may not to someone else — whatever works for you!
Another thing. Christie has been quoted as saying: “The best time to plan a book is when you’re doing the dishes.” I find this enormously inspiring. We all have household tasks and life activities to take care of, but that doesn’t mean your brain can’t be working on a book. Just be careful while driving.
One of the curious things about studying fiction writing intensively while writing a novel has been learning that there is no “right” or “wrong” method of collecting and storing ideas. I find that multiple methods work for me and I’m sure it’s the same for most writers.
For example, while I know some writers avoid Pinterest (and I used to be one of them), I’ve found this social network to be one of the most useful for planning a book and culling inspiration. Why? Because, besides articles, you can store pictures galore. Basically, you can have an online inspiration board that never gets lost or has coffee spilled on it. For me, it helps to see a visual to inspire a place or person in my writing. I also store useful writing articles on Pinterest. And of course, I’ve got recipes. Lots of those. But since I use recipes in my work-in-progress, it all makes sense. You can visit my Pinterest page by clicking here.
For those not using Pinterest and who may be worried about sharing their inspiration with the world — not always a good idea if you haven’t published something yet — rest assured. Pinterest allows you to create what they call a “Secret Board.” This is a board seen only by you. I have a few of these for my current work in progress. So pin away secure in the knowledge that your pins will be safe from prying eyes — if that is something that concerns you. Obviously, you won’t see my secret boards if you visit my Pinterest page, just FYI.
What methods do you use for notes and inspiration? What works best for you?