writing

The Best Gift for A Writer

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I recently discovered the best gift a writer can receive. It wasn’t a notebook or a pen. It wasn’t a set of inspirational quotes or a beautifully crafted edition of a beloved story.

It was a set of long lost manuscript notes.

Months ago, maybe a year ago now, I plotted out a new novel. I started working on the idea while traveling. I didn’t have my laptop available, and I almost never carry a notebook with me. But I had an idea. Several ideas, really. Terrible, wonderful, awful, fantastic ideas that I did not want to forget. So I did what any writer would do; I brainstormed on the garish red, orange, and yellow sheets of paper that were available. Then I promised myself that when I got home, I would transcribe all of those ideas so that I could use them for a future novel. With that in mind, I put those bright slips somewhere very, very safe.

And I promptly forgot where I put them.

This forgetting shouldn’t have surprised me. Whenever I am so foolish as to put something important somewhere I think is safe, I inevitably lose it. My brain translates ‘safe’ as ‘somewhere out of the ordinary’, and I can only ever remember the usual places things could be. I had given up the notes for lost when a tiny miracle happened.

I was going through an old file, and near the bottom, cheery, sunset colored pages peeked out at me. It turns out that I had put those notes in a safe place after all. They were just waiting for me to find them.

I don’t know whether or not I’ll use those notes in the near future, but it is a relief to have them nonetheless. Knowing that they were gone, gnawed at me. Without seeing what I had scrawled, I could imagine that my old ideas were extraordinary and that I would never be able to live up to them. Now I can assess them with a fresh eye and remember precisely what plot points I planned.

Finding those manuscript notes was the best gift that I have received for a very long time, and I couldn’t me more tickled to have them back. I suspect I’m not alone in having misplaced writing notes (or, god forbid, entire drafts). Any commiseration will make feel less silly about losing them in the first place, so feel free to share similar tales of woe.

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35 thoughts on “The Best Gift for A Writer

  1. A happy day indeed. I completely understand how you feel. One day I couldn’t find my notebook, crammed full of several years worth of ideas, plots, scenes, character development etc. Then I remembered taking a load of papers from my desk down to the communal recycling bin a few days before. Argh! The bin had been emptied. I was distraught. At least a year later, I was cleaning behind my bedside table (housework is not a priority, obviously) and there it was 🙂

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  2. Oh man! I do this all the time! I used to have a notebook where I’d carry all my ideas around in. I scribble them down and devote on page per story idea, but then that book became disorganized and I became annoyed because I’m a perfectionist. So, I stopped writing in it. Now my ideas are even more disorganized because they’re on a bunch of scrap papers (often ripped corners) because that’s all I can find and then they end up pinned to a corkboard. :/ It’s not organized and I don’t know what goes to what anymore, but… for some reason… it feels better?

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I understand that. Sometimes it feels uncomfortable to be tied to a notebook, and ideas aren’t linear in the way that a notebook almost inevitably has to be. Scraps of paper are much easier to move around…even if they have a terrible tendency of wandering away.

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  3. I haven’t lost notes in quite the same way. But sometimes I draft plots, even first chapters and then forget I’ve done it. Many months later I’ll start thinking about THAT book again or “clean up” my computer, and find how far I’ve gone. That too is a gift.

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  4. I have notes in my files from books started–they’re on my list of things to finish. The worst, though, are little notes scrawled when ideas were hot. I found a note the other day that says “The Sisters Grimm.” Certainly, that was an idea for a story, but I have no idea what I was thinking, no recollection of what hit my imagination.

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    1. Oh, that is always frustrating! I have notes like that where I can’t quite remember what ideas I’ve had. (I also have notes where I can’t entirely read my handwriting…which suggests that I may need to work on my penmanship.)

      Sisters Grimm does sound intriguing though.

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  5. Many years ago, back in the age of the dinosaurs (the pre-computer era), I sent a draft of a wonderful (IMHO) story to a nationally distributed magazine. It was accepted, and then . . . LOST! Somehow, someway, someone had misplaced it. The editor apologized and asked that I send another copy pronto. Oops . . . VERY BIG OOPS–there WAS no other copy! Yep, I had committed the cardinal sin of writers back in the day of paper and postage. I had failed to make a backup copy of my brilliant work. I lost a sale, but worse of all, the world lost a brilliant story (he said, ever so humbly). 🙂 Try as I might, I could never put Humpty Dumpty together again in just the right way. Lesson learned.
    –Michael

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  6. Oh thank goodness I’m not alone in doing this! I’ve started collecting notebooks and journals just so I can have all my notes in one place. Before, I had simply written every single one of my ideas on some random pieces of paper I’d torn out of a school notebook. I almost ALWAYS lost them or forgot I had written them. The worst instance I had was when I wrote the entire backstory/plot of the book I’d been working on for about a year, and to keep it safe, I’d put them in some place no one could find it, including me. Only about two years ago had I found them, and luckily I’d remembered enough of the notes that my plot had turned out almost exactly as I had planned!

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Somewhere out there are eight tattered and worn moleskin notebooks, crammed with story ideas, plot lines, character sketches, two novel outlines, one entire book of overheard expressions and phrases and another full of poetry. They’ve been gone from my life more than six years. Then I read your story.

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    1. Eight of them. Eight. And here I was heartbroken about losing several slips of paper. There is a part of me that would never stop mourning that many bits of writing, but I am a creature who gets too attached to ideas. I’m sorry that you lost them. I hope that you pulled what you could from their shadow.

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  8. I’ve been there! although for me it is recording of my memories from a life with my husband who passed away a number of years back. Perhaps it was a form of coping – but I do know I was afraid I might forget ‘things’.
    Even though I prefer to write with pen and paper, I do worry about losing, or inadvertently destroying my notes. So, I’ve transcribed my notes and ideas onto an online journal. I like being able to edit or update from anywhere, and not being locked down to any one device. It provides some peace of mind.

    Happy writing folks, hope to see some of your work one day.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Those memories sound very precious, and I understand the fear of misplacing them. I know that my mother journals for that same reason: to be a keeper of memory. Storing them in an online space sounds like a very smart way to go about managing them.

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  9. I’ve not lost notes yet, but because my mind leaks so much I have to write ideas down as soon as I get them otherwise they’re lost forever. I’m glad you found your notes and thanks for following 😃

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  10. I’m glad this had a happy end :-). I even misplace some reviews I started sometimes. I sometimes take a part of me with me to work (to think and work on during my lunch break) and then suddenly I don’t know if I left them there, in my bag or somewhere at home. I’ve always found them back so far though :-). You can always write another review but not in the exact same words so it’s not quite the same the second time and I always think the first time is the best 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I also have that problem of bringing projects to work on over my lunch hour and then leaving them god only knows where. I give myself a fright whenever I do that. I’m glad to hear that you have always found those first drafts. May we all continue to be so lucky. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I totally understand putting something in a safe place then forgetting where that safe place is. That happens to me and I often forget the things that I wanted to put safely away. Then when looking for something else I’ll encounter something I forgot about and be so pleased to remember that I had put it way. I’m not an author, although I do have a couple of notebooks I’ve started, one for a basic beginning and one for the characters of a story that’s been rattling around in my head for a few years. I haven’t lost those, yet….

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you. If I ever discover more than an inkling of the main plot line I may chronicle my progress but for now it is just a beginning and my characters are keeping me in the dark about the what and why an how of the adventure they are going to embark upon.

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