I have index cards and pens all over the house--by the bed, in the bathroom, in the kitchen, by the phones, and I have them in the glove compartment of my car. I carry one with me in my back pocket when I take my dog for a walk. In fact, I carry it folded lengthwise, if you need to know, so that, God forbid, I won't look bulky. You may want to consider doing the same. I don't even know you, but I bet you have enough on your mind without having to worry about whether or not you look bulky. So whenever I am leaving the house without my purse--in which there are actual notepads, let along index cards--I fold an index card lengthwise in half, stick it in my back pocket along with a pen, and head out, knowing that if I have an idea, or see something lovely or strange or for any reason worth remembering, I will be able to jot down a couple of words to remind me of it. Sometimes, if I overhear or think of an exact line of dialogue or a transition, I write it down verbatim. I stick the card back in my pocket. I might be walking along the salt marsh, or out at Phoenix Lake, or in the express line at Safeway, and suddenly I hear something wonderful that makes me want to smile or snap my fingers--as if it has just come back to me--and I take out my index card and scribble it down.From Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (Anchor, 1995).
I've been jotting things down on index cards in my own fashion and pulled things from them to write two poems tonight. (I added Richard Goode's recording of Beethoven piano sonatas for inspiration.) Here are some of the odds and ends that made it into my poems (many others didn't):
"avoidance"Yes, I jotted down "avoidance" with quotation marks. When I heard the phrase "cheap seats" today, I knew that I wanted to have it as a title.
waiting for the other sock to drop
a bunch of motels
a shell of a shell
[Update: Elaine describes her musical uses for index cards.]