Around the age of 12(ish), I – for some reason – decided it was imperative that I write down all the things I knew about Sailor Moon (the anime, not the manga). I guess I was worried that my future self would forget all these details about my favourite show. I still have that notebook and I can’t bring myself to throw it out. It was something that my younger self thought was important, and the act of recording these details made 12-year-old Sam happy, so really, it’s no different than keeping my old diaries. Except I can’t use the contents of my Sailor Moon notebook as fodder for future books because, you know, copyright.
When I was younger, I constantly felt like I should be keeping a journal, yet I only ever wrote in my diary for special occasions: birthdays, Christmas, etc. There’s also at least one notebook full of angsty, low-self-esteem fuelled entries that I wrote between the ages of 13-16 (before I used music as a way to express/release my emotions).
There were a few years (high school into university) where I wrote in a journal every night before bed. People say it’s a good way to organize your thoughts and reflect on your day/life, but after a certain point, it was a little depressing. Day after day, I wrote a variation of the same thing: what classes I had, how long I worked, who I ate lunch with; maybe – if it was a particularly eventful day – I’d have one or two moments that stood out: a funny story or an argument. And that was it. When you don’t do much out of the ordinary, chronicling your life can be very repetitive.
Now I’ve regressed back to my childhood habit of writing down “special” moments: birthdays, Christmas, etc. Stuff that I want to remember, whether for my own sake (i.e. my happiness) and/or because I think/know these moments will help me in my fiction writing. I also record all my music-related memories: meeting a beloved band member, hearing a favourite song live… I use this blog for that very purpose: in each concert review, I try to work in the highlights of the show so that I won’t forget them. I like to think that – regardless of how other people read/understand them – these posts capture some of the emotions that I feel/felt at a particular concert or for a particular band.
I guess my point is this: in my own life, I only write down the “relevant” moments (i.e. the events/feelings I want to remember). So, logically, I should only be writing the “important” moments in my characters’ lives, right? No one wants to hear about the tedious day-to-day; readers want the big picture, the diary-worthy moments. Skip the boring outer layers and go straight to the delicious chocolatey centre.
Of course, I don’t think anyone ever said that logic plays a big role in writing a first draft.
P.S. Half of this post’s title has been brought to you by the always fantastic Jack’s Mannequin (aka Andrew McMahon):