Since switching to a better smartphone earlier this year (an LG G3, for the curious) I’ve taken to using a notetaking app on it. I started off with the phone’s default app, which was adequate, but had a few issues that might have been fine on a paper notebook (ticked list items not disappearing, for e.g.), but not adding any value to a computer program of the same. I’ve always been of the belief that if it isn’t fundamentally improved by the computer version, you shouldn’t bother, which is why I have in the past used pen & paper notebooks for all my idle musings.
I still carry a paper notepad, always, and a part of me feels a little guilty to have switched. I have not actually given up on paper, because even though the current notekeeping app I use, Google Keep, integrates with my account and can back-up to Google’s cloud storage and whatnot, I still keep the notes on it to the briefest version, because I feel that one day I should sit down and go over them, and transfer them to my larger notebook (that doesn’t fit into my pocket).
The one rather nice thing about Keep and its ilk, I must admit, is that it breaks down the notion of an idea being finite and particulate. Sure, most of my notes are single paragraph or sentence ideas, unrelated to each other other. But others have started to cohere into larger collectives, quite of their own volition.
I started, for instance, a note with a story idea a few months ago. A story about robots, all quite generic, but with enough of a spin to make me interested in writing it. A few days later I had a similar — but not quite same — idea, and instead of assigning it to its own little box in the app, I added it into the first, as an alternative plotline. A few days after that, both ideas had diverged sufficiently in my head that they were now two separate short stories, and lo, a third had reared its robot head.
A few months passed, and I looked at that note again, since every time I add to it — a sentence here, a wrinkle of plot there — it keeps bumping it up to the top of the app window. I have somehow managed to write down concepts for thirteen stories about robots in the past few months. That’s a healthy enough number to be considered a collection, if I ever write them down. I have had interconnected ideas such as this before, back in the notebook days, and sometimes I have managed to make the connections and cohere them into one project, but more often than not they remain separate. Sometimes I haven’t even bothered writing them down, alas, but with phones the lovely & horrible thing is that you’re likely starting at one right now, so it takes very little effort to hop over to Keep and add in a single line idea. Add to the fact that absolutely nobody bats an eyelid if you’re fucking with your phone in public, while I’d often get stared at for whipping out a pad & paper. It shouldn’t affect you, but it does.
Now, ideas are hardly the actual work, because god knows I’ve written enough times about starting out on stories/novels here before with no fruit borne, but it’s nice to have a new way of shaping my ideas. It still helps to write things down, even just transfer them to pen & paper, because along the way you can embellish, edit; but it’s also nice to think up some new little bit of plot info for a concept months old, and with no need to hunt it down in a notebook & see if there’s space in the margin to squeeze in, just lay down some new lines.
I don’t know when or if this collection of thirteen stories about robots will be written. You may encounter me years later, with a text file bursting with dozens of stories for the same, all unwritten. But considering I was keeping fewer and fewer notes on paper anyway, and the change of habit has renewed the pace, I am at least thankful to have those gears turning again.
I’m not writing anything of length on a phone, though. 5 inches of screen might sound like a lot, but I still type awfully on a touchscreen. Some things are just not worth it.