Looking for the Idea Lost and Found

It never fails.  I’m running on the treadmill or mowing the lawn or standing in the shower…and an idea for a story comes to me.  Not just “an idea”, but The Greatest Idea Ever.  The Idea which would lead to the best new novel/poem/story/script ever imagined ever!

It happened again this morning, the idea coming to me as I finally got my aching muscles loosened up after a long weekend of abusing them.  The idea was so simple, so perfect… it was going to write itself.  I had opening lines, the number of chapters, the main characters all there in my mind.  I kept going over the idea as the machine counted my steps and I was sure I’d get home and be able to transcribe it.

I got home, fired up the laptop, went to wake the children, took care of the dishes, let the dog out, fed the cats, watered the plants, started the coffee, drove the teenagers to school, updated the grocery list, sorted through some laundry issues, wrote a couple checks for school events…  When I finally sat down at the laptop, the idea — my perfect, amazing, fantastic, almost-going-to-write-itself idea– was gone.

Obviously, we can all see my mistake here: I shouldn’t have come home.  But getting past that, I sit here and wonder how many ideas have come and gone simply because Life with a capital L demands that we prioritize work, school, kids,  paying the bills, etc. above all else.  I certainly wish I could just close my eyes and do a Bing search in my brain to find that idea which just this morning felt like it was The One.  If there’s an idea lost and found, I’m sure it is full of stories that have not yet been told but are there just waiting for someone to reclaim them.

It’s funny or sad or…something…  I never put pen to paper on this story that came to me this morning. Never really got to know the characters or their world. And yet, the feeling of loss is big because they are gone.  I mean, they’re still “in there” somewhere, but the whole thing is out of reach.  On the good side of the ledger, it’s been a long time since I felt like a creative idea that good was there for me.  Now I just need to find it again and hope that it’s while I’ve got a laptop or a pen or my phone nearby.

What tricks or methods do you use to help remember ideas that come to you when you simply cannot record them immediately? I’d love to hear what works for you.



5 thoughts on “Looking for the Idea Lost and Found

  1. It’s happened to me, too. Years ago, I started carrying a small digital voice recorder.I mostly used it when I was driving since that’s when I have “brilliant” ideas. I used to to remind myself of things I had to do and occasionally even used it to record details for a future blog posting.
    These days I have a recorder on my iPhone.
    Best of luck. Let us know when you publish that book comes out!

  2. The old life with a capital L can certainly be a four letter word at times. It has happened to me on at least one occasion and it is so incredibly “something” as you put it … sad, frustrating, disappointing, angering … something. To know that everything was right there for the taking and now is “gone” … ugh.

    I have actually used my smartphone on occasion to jot down a few key points on characters or plot points that I don’t want to forget. I guess this is no different than carrying a notebook and pen around. The difference is that I always have my phone with me. And technology has allowed us greater ease in transcribing ideas into our electronic devices – note taking apps, speech notes – if only they could find a way to dump our brain waves directly into our devices. Wait, maybe that isn’t such a good idea, but maybe a good idea for a story 🙂

  3. Oh, what memories. Absolutely. I’ve learned to take a half hour to sketch it all out. Even as I’m writing, it starts evaporating.

    Granted, my kids are grown, my dog is old, and my husband does all the errands for the family.

  4. If an idea comes it is better to write it down right away, on a piece of paper, on your tablet, your phone etc. I used to believe that if an idea is really great I will never forget it. A big mistake. Not written down means forgotten.

  5. I have a notepad everywhere except in the shower – which, like my singing, is where my best ideas develop.
    If I ever get a smartphone it will probably be so I no longer lose those fleeting but perfect ideas.

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