The moment inspiration strikes — that feeling you get when a new idea wraps itself around you and refuses to let go — is so wondrous that it’s difficult to describe with words. Even for a writer.
I tend to compare this feeling to receiving a surprise gift in the mail. Not to bum you out or anything, but I don’t think anyone has ever sent me a surprise gift in the mail before. But I assume that holding it in your hands and being filled with awe and gratitude probably feels the same way a new idea feels.
It’s not just shiny and new and exciting. It’s unexpected in the best way possible. Even people who don’t particularly enjoy surprises certainly won’t complain when it’s a brand-new idea ringing the bell.
The adrenaline rush that comes with trying to figure out what to DO with your new idea is something quite unique. You have options. Do you scramble to the nearest disposable surface and write it down before it’s too late? Do you have the luxury of sitting down right this moment to start working on it — at the very least, constructing a rough outline of what it might look like? Do you tell someone? Announce it to the world?
The truth is that when it comes to transferring ideas from your head to your hand (and preferably from your hand to something else, like a blank document), it doesn’t matter how you do it. As long as you do it, and release it from the tight cage of your mind so that it can begin to grow outside of your brain.
But sometimes you never get to that point. You truly believe that this time “I swear I’ll remember it and write it down as soon as I’m done doing this other more important thing that might not actually be more important but whatever.”
And by the time you do come back to it, the idea is — or so it seems — long gone.
In the moment it seemed as though you were unlike anything I had ever seen before — an idea that simply could not be ignored.
Within moments of finding me it seemed you had already made a thousand promises I had full faith you could keep. With you, things were going to be different this time. With you — maybe, just maybe — I was going to change the world.
The giddiness that accompanies inspiration, especially when I’m not in a place I can release it (e.g., in the middle of a movie theater, leading a meeting, or laying in bed at 3 a.m.), can at times feel unberable. Like, is this new idea actually going to make me explode?
So, what do you do in the meantime? You hope and pray to whatever Force or god or universe you believe in that the idea is so good it sticks around even when you have absolutely no choice to ignore it.
You came to me in the middle of the night — thanks for that — so the best I could do right then was hope that when I was ready to rise, you would still be next to me, staring deep into my eyes, just waiting.
“I’ll see you in the morning,” I said, afraid I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep due to the excitement fluttering in my chest. Tomorrow I was going to wake up, and I was going to start putting my new idea into words, and it was going to change my life forever.
But when I awoke, I first recalled that I’d met a new idea. And then I realized I could not remember what the idea had been.
“See you in the morning” was supposed to mean I would find you right where I left you when I opened my eyes again, but you’d wandered off in the middle of the night and hidden yourself from me. I could not find you.
I did all the things I knew to do when someone forgets something important. I returned to the place I first discovered you, hoping it would trigger your memory. I paced, I started writing down random thoughts and ideas hoping you would reappear again, as if the act would summon you from wherever you had gone. I even went on with my day and figured maybe when I stopped thinking of you, you’d show up again.
But you didn’t. You never did. You came to me once and then you left.
This story could have gone many different ways. Sometimes ideas pop in and bow out again from the time it takes to open the notes app on a smartphone and type in a phrase that would draw the idea back when it was more convenient.
Sometimes ideas do come back. But they don’t always.
Where do ideas go when they leave us?
I think I’ve always held onto the belief that just because one idea doesn’t fit into one person’s world doesn’t mean it doesn’t belong anywhere. Ideas, especially when you aren’t looking for them, find you. They don’t always end up with the right person at first, but everyone has at least one idea that is meant for them — one that is theirs, and theirs alone. Theirs to develop and trust and love even after the idea becomes something real.
Perhaps when ideas stop in for a chat they’re simply reminding us that ideas as a whole are all over. They always show up when we’d rather them not and never do when we’re desperate for one, and often it’s the ones we have the least confidence in that turn out to change our worlds for the better.
Just because ideas come and go doesn’t mean they’re not important or that they won’t make a difference in someone else’s hands.
You and I were going to get along and form a bond I had never experienced with any other idea that had come before you. But the universe had other plans. There was someone else who needed this idea more, and to mourn it would be, in all honesty, a waste of valuable energy.
Maybe we weren’t meant to be, you and I. And maybe that’s okay.
For if we adopted every idea that came to us it’s possible we might run out of room, which you wouldn’t think could be possible considering that an idea doesn’t actually take up actual space. But perhaps we only have the capacity to hold so many ideas at once, and there’s no way we can have all of them, no matter how much we might want them.
I feel guilty for letting you go, even if it seems as though I didn’t actively choose to. But the truth is that I do believe you’re going to end up somewhere much better than here, and that whoever finds you will cherish and love you for longer than I had the chance to.
I hope you found a place to land and that you became something meaningful to someone. I hope the best for you, not because you were once mine, but because I remember you were good, and that you mattered, and knew you were going to make a difference.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.
One thought on “To All the Ideas I’ve Ever Lost On My Hurried Way to Writing Them Down”
Great post. Very funny–and so true. I’ve heard of a writer whose husband gave her bath crayons, so she could write down the good ideas that came to her in the shower. I like that. I always have a pen by my bed, so I can at least write a word or two on my hand when I wake up with an idea. I guess I should try putting some paper there too!