“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
- F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
“But along through those years I began to make lists of titles, to put down long lines of nouns. These lists were the provocations, finally, that caused my better stuff to surface. I was feeling my way toward something honest, hidden under the trapdoor on the top of my skull.”
In his book Zen in the Art of Writing Ray Bradbury described his method involving lists and how they led to fully realized ideas:
“The list ran something like this:
THE LAKE. THE NIGHT. THE CRICKETS. THE RAVINE. THE ATTIC. THE BASEMENT. THE TRAPDOOR. THE BABY. THE CROWD. THE NIGHT TRAIN. THE FOG HORN. THE SCYTHE. THE CARNIVAL. THE CAROUSEL. THE DWARF. THE MIRROR MAZE. THE SKELETON.
I was beginning to see a pattern in the list, in these words that I had simply flung forth on paper, trusting my subconscious to give bread, as it were, to the birds.”
Words and feelings, names and locations, random bits that some day might have meaning. This particular list would lead to his novel Something Wicked This Way Comes.
It’s a very simple thing to do, writing lists. If you ever find yourself needing a good idea, or if you’re just interested in seeing where your subconscious might take you, sit down outside in the sun, on the patio, in a chair, and just write what comes to mind.
You might be surprised.
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
- Ernest Hemingway