Guilty! I broke the author’s first commandment.

Yes, I certainly did. The author’s first commandment being, “Always carry a notebook and a pen.”

So I found myself on a bus to Lincoln last week Wednesday. It was early, just after school drop-off, and the sun was shining brightly on the green and lush Lincolnshire countryside as the bus trundled its way towards the city centre. Already the spires of the Cathedral were in full view, and the scenery was growing more suburban by the minute.

I was sitting on the top deck, idly minding my own business. Actually, I wasn’t minding my own business at all. I don’t recall thinking about anything in particular. I had no worries on my mind, no urgent tasks, no remnants of a frazzled morning to analyse. I was simply… sitting there. When, quite suddenly and completely out of the blue, an idea struck. What if a famous rock star, for a whole host of complicated reasons, had to up-end his life and start over, deep, deep under cover? Dah-dah-daaaang!

My nose twitched. (My nose always twitches when I’m onto something, idea-wise). Oh-uh. While the bus rambled on, its passengers oblivious of the creative avalanche in my brain, ideas for the story clicked into place like fragments of a jigsaw. Places, motivations, crisis points, laugh-out-loud potential… everything swirled round and settled into place faster than I could say (not out loud, of course), “hang on, I haven’t got a pen.”

Because yes, my friends, I had committed the unthinkable crime. I had left the house with a rucksack devoid of writerly implements. No notebook, no notepad, not even a pen with which to write on my bus ticket (tiny though it was, it would have been a scrap of hope!). I had nothing. Nada. Nixiplonks, as my other half would say. There was a reason for this of course. The previous Monday, I had got utterly drenched in a phenomenal rain storm, and I had to empty out my rucksack completely, disposing of notepads, pens, and various other things I habitually carry.

The normal contents of my rucksack... including a notepad and several pens!

The normal contents of my rucksack… including a notepad and several pens!

My fingers itched, and I was feeling frantic.

The problem wasn’t so much that I was fearful of losing the idea. The idea was firmly embedded in my head in broad strokes. No, the problem was that whole scenes were coming to me thick and fast, as though I’d already written the book and was germinating edits. This is what usually happens when I conceive a novel, except it usually happens in the middle of the night when I’m at home with access to all manner of writing accoutrements, most notably my laptop.

Worse! Next thing I knew, the bus pulled into my stop, and I had to hurl myself down the stairs so that I wouldn’t be carried further than I wanted.

Breathless and discombobulated, I paused under the big plane tree on Broadgate (if indeed it is a plane tree. Who am I to know these things? Details, details!) and dug out my mobile phone. Needs must!

See? Ancient.

See? Ancient.

That probably sounds like an inspired course of action to you, but you have to understand that my mobile phone is old. As in, seriously old. It’s the exact opposite of a smartphone. It makes calls and sends and receives texts, and that’s it. It does not access the Internet, Facebook, Twitter, email or my blog. It does not have voice-recognition or a pseudo-work-environment. But it does have a ‘to do’ list function.

For the next twenty minutes, I stumbled all over Lincoln, crossing various roads and only barely just dodging cars, bikers, and delivery trucks, while clumsily tapping the bare bones of my next novel into this ancient old phone one painstaking letter at a time. I would bet you that I was the epitome of the irresponsible phone user, and that many an irate driver shook their fist at me. But hey, I didn’t have a choice. I was a woman possessed.

I broke the author’s first commandment, and I had a sore thumb for days, but I rescued the plot, the plan, the grand idea. And that, people, means that you can look forward to yet another book in my catalogue. After Fallen for Rock (out 30 June) and my Christmas novella (Fairy Tale in New York, out in October or November) and my current work-in-progress (bringing you a glamorous rock star couple and their rather disastrous honeymoon with epic consequences, due for release in the spring of 2015), I have the next story in the hopper. And so the fun goes on!

But I counsel thee this. Never, ever, ever leave your house without a notepad and a pen. I shall learn my lesson, too!

Your turn! Have you ever been assailed by an idea, a concept, a thought, that you had to eternalise without any means of doing so? What did you do?

25 responses to “Guilty! I broke the author’s first commandment.

  1. OMG! Nicky, I felt frantic right along with you. I have the notebook and pen – just need the ideas! I was envious of you for having such wonderful brainwaves, but felt your frustration at not having anything to write with and on. But with your great mind, I’m sure you’ve transferred the ideas and the pages are stacking up in your computer now.

    • Not sure about the great mind, Anneli, it seems to be crumbling! But yes, outline duly transferred onto the computer (and backed up), now sitting in the ‘hold’ queue until I get to it!! Thanks for stopping by, and no need to be envious. These ‘epiphany’ moments happen at best once a year!

  2. Oh, Nicky – the agony of those moments, of not being able to soothe those itchy fingers and frantic brain! SO GLAD you managed to get down what you needed – and didn’t get run over, or walk into a lake! And oh, you planner, I do sort of envy you. I’ll keep pantsing along, doin’ what I do. 😉

    I now keep a notebook and pen in the downstairs loo. I was sat there one day, minding my own business, when, out of the blue, Lady Aida started spinning me her dialogue, line by line. At that moment, I was not physically able to leave my ‘seat’ ( 😉 ) so I recited her lines over and over, muttering, “WAIT, please, just give me a minute!”
    Typical Lady Aida, she told me to hurry up, her words were *important* and I should get back to my laptop as soon as possible. 😛

  3. cosmochicklitan

    The new book sounds brilliant!! So glad you could get your thoughts onto paper eventually. I forgot to take my bank card with me the other day when I went to get petrol, but unfortunately only realised after I had put petrol into my car – so embarrassing!!

    • Oh lordy, Heid, what did you do? This is my worst nightmare (worse than having a book inspiration and no pen). Please tell me they helped you sort it out?

      • cosmochicklitan

        I was given 24 hours to come back and pay for the petrol otherwise they would start legal proceedings (they took my personal details and car registration number). I quickly went home, got my bank card and returned to pay for the petrol. However, I am never going back to that specific petrol station – way too embarrassing…

      • At least they helped you out. Then again, what else would they do? Impound the car? Suck the petrol back out again? Oh Heidi, this could have easily happened to Sophie, you’re in good company. XX

  4. Oh Nicky, I sympathise with you trying to get your ideas entered into your phone. I always have a pen or in my bag (no guarantee they work especially when you NEED them) and sometimes even have something I can scribble on but alas, I’m short on the ideas front.

    • Ha! Divest yourself of pen and paper and anything remotely useful, go travelling, do some people watching, and see what’ll happen. Opportunity knocks when you’re NOT prepared, LOL! Big hugs, and thanks for taking the time to stop by and comment, Mel!! X

      • I love people watching! Train stations and airports are great places for that. Everyone who passes through there has a story… after all, they’re either going somewhere or coming back. Oh, the possiblities are endless.

  5. Oh dear! At least you had SOMETHING to write the idea on. Touch wood, it’s not happened to me – yet! I pretty much always have notebook and pen, but I ALWAYS have my phone, which is up to having things written on it. I must admit, it’s one of the things I love about my iPhone! Have a rockin’ week! xx

    • Karen, I’m nearly sold on the iPhone front, LOL! The irony being that I normally always have pen and paper with me… if it hadn’t been for that torrential downpour on Monday, LOL! Wishing you a rocking week, also. XX

  6. Loved reading this, Nicky – it was all too scarily familiar! I’ve also tapped book plots into my phone on buses and or started scribbling in the bus stop having just thrown myself off the bus, annoyed at the interruption of my stop! I’m afraid I regularly leave the house without a notebook and pen though, sometimes I just have to trust my brain to remember plot bunnies – which it’s not very good at doing!
    Sorry we haven’t caught up for ages! Glad things are going well for you, and good luck with writing the new plot! I adore that feeling of ‘new idea avalanche’!

    • Aha, I knew I wasn’t going to be alone on this. I reckon a bus is a great place to conceive. Ideas, I mean! I think it’s something to do with having ’empty headspace’ while you’re giving yourself up to somebody else taking you where you need to be. So there’s nothing much to do but to contemplate.

      So lovely to hear from you, I’m always keeping an eye out but things are soooo busy. You know what it’s like! XX

  7. I’ve pecked many an idea, even full chapters in my phone for lack of anything else and I can sympathize with the ancient phone. Long story short, I’m on a very old droid.

  8. Hi Nicky, I managed to read this on holiday but couldn’t respond. Now back! How frustrating and how common a problem it is. When I was working I used to catch the bus into the city and would always carry a pen and pad and if inspiration struck I would scribble my thoughts down. I think the other passengers must have thought I was mad! The thing is if you forget, you’re right, it’s a nightmare trying to hold onto it in your head. And once it’s gone it never quite comes back in the same way! Looking forward to reading Fallen for Rock. Take care! Jo x

    • Hi Jo, thanks for coming back twice, once to read, once to comment. You’re quite right, once the idea goes, it never quite comes back in the same way. At least, I don’t think it does. 🙂 Hope you had a great holiday and see you soon….

  9. What did i do? I don’t remember — i didn’t have anything to write with!
    Or if i did, i lost the note somewhere… 🙂

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