Abir Mukherjee

Where Do You Store Your Nuts?

Where do you keep your ideas? Whether our minor characters are based on people we meet, or our plots are ripped from the headlines, all writers need a way to store nuts for winter and retrieve them later. How do you organise yours? Could it be better?

Wow. Once again the question of the week seems designed to highlight my inadequacies and general uselessness as a writer.
The sad fact is that I’m not organised enough to store ideas anywhere. I tried writing them down in a pad, but then I lost the pad and basically blew my chances of a Pulitzer. In any case, most of my ideas tend to come to me just before I fall asleep, in that hazy grey space between consciousness and oblivion. They always seem brilliant at the time but then when I revisit them in the cold light of day, they are either completely rubbish or too fantastically boring to be worth pursuing.
But I do store stuff – not plot ideas but interesting sentences or turns of phrase that come into my head, or which I overhear on the bus or when I’m eavesdropping on strangers in pubs, restaurants or parking lots. These can be anything from a few words to a couple of sentences of dialogue and I record them in the notes app on my phone, which supposedly syncs with the notes function on my lap top and my ipad. As far as I can tell, this syncing function is capricious at best, recording my shopping lists across all devices without fail but often losing that gem of a sentence I thought of while hiding in the neighbour’s hedge. A lot of these snippets are rubbish, but some are ok, and when it works, this store of sentences are a great way of peppering up a text that I might be writing.
Here’s a couple of them from my phone:
‘A summer dress, trainers and a face tucked into an iPhone.’ – someone I saw on the train, probably.
‘Serve small and serve all.’ – I think that’s a phrase I overheard.
‘The once and future king of America, serving out his exile in Mar-a-lago, his cut-price Camelot.’ – Guess who that’s about.
‘An old man asleep with a smile on his face.’
These phrases give me a lot of joy. I hope I can use them all someday. As for being organised enough to store ideas, well, that’s not going to happen.

25 March 2022