Whether I'm awake or asleep, whether I'm writing fiction or I'm busy with another project altogether, my subconscious is always working on my novels. It'll pop up when I least expect it, offering an insight or spitting out the particular word or figure of speech that had eluded me when I consciously sought it.
These glimpses into the busy underworld of my subconscious don't last long. I must make a note of them at once, or risk losing them forever.
That's why I have notepads everywhere. I have a stack of them, large and small, next to the chair where I do much of my reading. I have a notepad and two pens next to my side of the bed, where I also keep a battery-powered camping lantern that I bought at Walmart for $5. The lantern produces a dim-enough glow that it doesn't blind me when I punch its "On" button in the middle of the night to record a moment of brilliance that's flashed up from deep in my mind.
I have notepaper in my wallet and notepads in my car. I have a notepad on the living room table that holds the remotes for the TV and the DVR. Occasionally, a character on the screen will say something that jogs something that I must write down immediately.
My biggest hoard of notepads, however, is in the bathroom. I do my best thinking near running water. (I'm a Pisces, after all.) In the shower is where I solve many of my writing problems. Phrases come to me, new directions suggest themselves, answers arrive to questions that I might have been puzzling over for weeks. I love running water.
It presents a dilemma, though, when the perfect wording for a difficult passage careens into my thoughts while I'm covered in soap. Do I step out, dripping soap and water, and write down the thought immediately? Or do I keep repeating it over and over in my head, not trusting myself to remember it all the way through to toweling-off unless I keep it front-of-mind?
I've found that I can close my eyes and picture my pen writing the phrase in a notepad. After I've written it mentally, I picture the ink-stained reality of it and read it back to myself from my imaginary notepad. That usually works to capture the thought long enough for me to get rinsed off and get my hands on real paper and pen.
But if I get two perfect phrases in the course of one shower, then I must step out and write them down. The tracing-on-my-mind method is not reliable for more than one thought at a time.
What I really need is one of those write-underwater tablets that marine archeologists use. Then I could stay in the shower until I shrivel up, recording thought after thought. But I guess that would be hard on the septic tank. Not very eco-friendly in a world of water shortages. So I'll just keep writing on my notepads, real and imaginary.