Stories begin as ideas. Those ideas can from anywhere. A simple sentence or even a few words can stir up something. As a writer, it can seem like the most brilliant ideas are forgotten before they are jotted down. For this reason, I used to get in the habit of walking with index cards and a pen in a fanny pack, everywhere I went. In my travels, I would record those bits of the world that inspired me. A baby's smile, clouds, laughter, the texture of the ground I was walking over, I would record all things special to me.
The hard part was transcribing these tidbits of information. It seemed that whenever I would try type out these few words, I couldn't help but expound on them. I would not just simply jot the words down, I would explain what I recalled and what feeling the experiences evoked. All the hows, whens, and whys. That simple sentence would grow into this beast of a page. I had mentioned this once to a fellow writer and she said, "That's a good thing! That's what you want!" But I sometimes found that frustrating. It would take me half an hour to transcribe one card, when I had a shopping bag full of them. At that rate, I would never finish. Once or twice, I asked my daughter to type out my notes. It would take her like twenty minutes to get through the whole bag of cards. But I could not ask her to do that all the time. Solution: Speech recognition software. That allowed me to turn of my "internal censor" and get the job done.
I still walk with index cards, every so often. Nowadays, during that time that would normally get spent (on line at the bank, riding the subway, etc.), during that dead time I'll enter notes into my cell phone and send an email to myself. That allows me to be a little more patient and makes standing around, waiting less grueling. And my cell phone is much easier to track than a shopping bag full of index cards.