It happens to all of us. You’re driving down the highway at 60 mph (100 kph), not really thinking about much, and some great idea comes to you. If you’re a writer, it’s a plot twist or some new novel idea or a snippet of thought that would make a great short story.
If you’re a scientist, it’s some interesting new experimental approach. Or a doctor might think about a patient they saw the day before and how that cluster of symptoms they described might actually be signs of an underlying disease.
Whatever it is. You’re driving along and it pops into your head. And it’s so strong or so unique (or so obvious) that you think you’ll never forget it. “Of course, Darth Vader is Luke’s father. Duh.”
And maybe you repeat it to yourself a few times just to be sure you won’t forget. “Darth Vader, Luke’s father. Darth Vader, Luke’s father….”
But then you get to wherever you were going and your mind fills up with “important” things. Like your partner’s boss’s comment that completely wrecked their day. Or your kid’s latest report card. Or the score of the football game and the fact that your favorite team seems to have forgotten how to actually play.
And by the time you get back to it, you’ve forgotten the idea. Sometimes you forget that you even had the idea in the first place. Worse, sometimes you know you’d thought of something really cool, but it just isn’t there anymore.
Sometimes you learn. And, if you’ve devoted yourself to a creative career where this happens fairly often, you start to carry around a pen and paper. You place a little notebook by the side of the bed just in case inspiration strikes in the middle of the night.
And this is great. You roll over and find the pen and paper in the darkness and you scrawl your idea down. That amazing, vivid dream that felt so real you weren’t even sure it was a dream is now recorded for future use.
As “planet, disease, transform, space monkeys.” (And that’s assuming you can actually read your own scrawl, which you likely wrote in the dark to either spare your partner or spare yourself the pain of a bright light shining in your eyes at 2 AM.)
Sometimes your note is legible, but you have no idea what it meant anymore. I have a note I wrote somewhere for this blog that says, “What would you want your Wikipedia entry to be?”
It had something to do with someone who has something to do with writing who has an absolutely atrocious Wikipedia entry. I think they were a published author, but most of the entry was devoted to some scandal they were involved in. And I read it and thought, “That is horrible. I would hate to have my writing career boiled down to that.”
But the note is now completely useless to me, because I can’t remember who it was about. And I’m a thematic thinker, so that name is nowhere in my brain. I recorded the lesson I needed, “try not to let your personal idiocy overshadow your writing,” and promptly forgot who was in the entry.
So, now the only use I have for that note is as an example of what happens when you don’t record an idea properly. You think at the time that it’s so important that a few words will sum it up. (And you do have to balance writing more detail against the odds of running the car off the road as you try to capture the idea.)
They don’t. Not always. Who knows how many great novels were never written for lack of a pen?
(And just to let you know, I may not blog the next few days. Moving things, losing my Internet connection, and all.)
(And can I also say how cool it is that WordPress spellcheck recognizes Darth Vader?)