Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Magic Box

There’s always a lot of talk about writer’s block when the creativity dries up. For me personally, it’s not about creativity, or even subject matter, its “what the hell do I work on?” which can be just as debilitating.

I gotta clarify this, of course; I have millions of ideas, and they all just want my attention. For instance, as of this writing I have about 6 blog post ideas that I’ve wanted to work on, and wouldn’t you know it, this Magic Box post wasn’t of them?

The Magic Box? Yeah, sounds kinda loopy. It’s a small cardboard file box that I found at work. I brought it home and started putting all my notes in it.

What a treasure trove it’s turned into!

At my job, my mind tries to work off the tedium by coming up with cool ideas and characters, scenes, short stories, novel titles, blog posts, and anything that happens to skip through my transom. I don’t carry a Blackberry or anything like that, so I take pieces of paper and fold them up so they fit in my pocket. I write all kinds of things on them, because I know I’ll forget them as soon as humanly possible.

Case in point: A lost novel Idea.

I had this fabulous character; a rich kid who is pulled out of Harvard because his father dies. He has to come home and deal with the family, the funeral, all that. This character is unimpressed by his family’s wealth and the way they put on airs; he’s humble, easy going, rather un-ambitious, except for his love of art and writing, and he’s likable. He’s obviously the black sheep of the family. He decides to take off in his father’s favorite car, to parts unknown, so he can sort things out. I immediately loved this character.

I forgot his name!

And it was integral to the story. His name was great; it instantly conjured up his demeanor and personality. Also, I had a great title for the book, which was part of an old poem I had read. I had quickly jotted it down, and have never seen that bit of paper since.

Soon after, I found this box. The Magic Box.

No, it didn’t have the kids name in it (To my chagrin).

But since then I have made it a habit of dropping all my notes in this box.
It’s a great writing prompt; I just search through the pieces of paper when I’m stuck and voila! If I had something in mind and forgot it, it’s always there in the box. And If I’m feeling “blocked” I just reach inside it and pull out some idea I had jotted down.

Not all ideas are usable, mind you. Some of these things are written at odd hours, or when I’m busy with something else. Some don’t even make sense, and some remain a mystery; I found an entire 800 word blog post on Perez Hilton stuffed at the bottom; I must have been pissed at him for something. Why I wrote it is baffling.
Searching through the Magic Box, I find notes on the Beatles, Generational Differences, Paper Airplanes, something called Edi-Writing, and a few pages of notes about my days as a high school reporter at the old Johnson Journal (which is now prompting me to finish it!)

My point is, Ideas are hard to come by, and when you get them, write them down, throw them in a box (You can name yours Pandora if you like...) unless you have a photographic memory. In the latter case, forget the whole thing! I bet if you wrote down some of the things you think about during the average day you’d never be stuck for ideas. That’s halfway to beating that Basterd Writer’s Block.

This may not work for you. Sometimes it doesn’t work for ME! But we need to keep trying; we need to keep positive.

And a Magic Box is never a bad thing, is it?

David Hunter, over and out.


  1. Agreed, awesome idea. My "magic box" is a small, braided basket made of forest green velvet. It holds scribblings written on post-it notes, cocktail napkins, recycled envelopes and more. I've been placing ideas in there for years. Your post reminds me this is the perfect time to look for inspiration in there and make a withdrawal.

    I hope the boy's name comes to you and do you write that story. I'll look forward to reading it!

  2. This idea is PERFECT for me. I can never keep an idea journal, or remember half of what I think up because I tend to jot my notes on any available loose scrap of paper, or in the margins of something unrelated, or just scribbled up and down my arm. I've tried making little mini pocket journals, or carrying slim booklets that fit in the purse and (theoretically) won't be left at home, but after a day, or three, or 15 those little books disappear from my conscious thought and end up in bottoms of boxes and backs of drawers, some never to be seen again.

    Thanks for the suggestion!

  3. I used to have a 'magic box'. I then outgrew it. It's now called the 'loft'. A tiny room I have to scramble into via a rickety ladder. It's simply perfect :)

  4. Hi David ~

    A magic box is a fabulous idea! I do write down my ideas, but they usually end up lost. I don't have a real system. LOL. (A writer's mind is by necessity a bit cluttered. HA!)


    This is just a quick note to let you know I left you an award at my blog:

    from the desk of a writer

    I hope you're well. :)

    All the very best,
    Corra :)

  5. Whew, thank goodness I rarely experience writers block.

  6. Hi David. I've left a little something for you on my blog :)