A Lost Writing Idea Is Haunting Me!

by Anne Wayman

I advocate carrying around a notebook, or 3×5 cards, or a tape recorder or something to capture writing ideas.

Every seasoned writer knows they simply must have a way to capture  new ideas when they  strikes. We know if we don’t, the idea is likely to float out of our head, perhaps never to return.

Of course, I don’t always follow my own advice. Yesterday I was on the phone with my Accountability Partner. At some point during the conversation an idea for a post for this blog arrived. It was clear, almost completely formed and I knew it would be both a cinch to write and helpful to my readers.

I could have written it down when it showed up. I didn’t. The idea seemed so strong in that moment or two. Besides I was either talking or listening to my friend.

I suspect I could have written that wonderful idea down after I hung up from the phone call. In fact, I thought I had.

I also maintain a word file on my computer’s desktop called Blog Ideas. It’s got three pages of ideas, some of which I’ve already written about (I draw a line through those rather than deleting them becuase I know many things can be rewritten to good effect) and many I haven’t.

If I wrote this now missing idea either I don’t recognize it or I neglected to save the file.

Sigh!

Maybe that glorious idea will come back all on it’s own or maybe it really is gone forever, or maybe it will come back and I won’t recognize it as the missing idea but think it’s new all over again. Meanwhile, consider this a cautionary tale and make sure you have a way to capture ideas.

How do you capture your ideas?

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Image from http://www.sxc.hu

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Rob Robillard August 9, 2010 at 1:42 pm

I lose more ideas that way! They usually come to me at bed time and I’m just too darned lazy to turn the light back on and write it down. Of course, it’s much easier to blame the cat. He’s forever taking my pen!

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annew August 9, 2010 at 8:49 pm

Hmmm… MzTiz doesn’t take pens, but she does love to sleep on my papers.

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Anne August 9, 2010 at 1:35 pm

Yeah, it used to be that way for me… still is, but not as often. Parts of getting older are not what I want!

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jorgekafkazar August 9, 2010 at 1:31 pm

I’ve found that if I can retrieve even the smallest part of the idea, what it concerned, any little detail, the entire thing will come back to me. Sometimes, I can recall what I was reading or talking about when I got the idea; then the concept will come back in a few seconds.
jorgekafkazar recently posted..Watcher in the Night decipheredMy Profile

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Aparajita August 9, 2010 at 11:22 am

Wow. It was nice reading about how other writers capture their brainwaves. Mine come (almost always) in dreams, and these are very vivid dreams. I do sleep with a small A6 notebook next to my pillow, and a pen with that, but sometimes, if it’s dark and I can’t write it down, I type it out on my cell phone as a text message, and save it in drafts. But often, I remember what I dreamed about, and type out everything on my computer in the morning.

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Anne August 9, 2010 at 11:57 am

I rarely remember my dreams and when I do they are often pretty banal.

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Kathryn Pless November 16, 2009 at 10:46 pm

I have to laugh, I too have wonderful ideas that come from nowhere only to return to the firmament if I don’t write them down. Most of mine come when I’m just about to go to sleep. Of course I don’t have a notebook and pen near my bed. What would be the adventure in that? In the morning I don’t usually remember the idea, just that I had an idea.
.-= Kathryn Pless´s last blog .. =-.

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Anne November 17, 2009 at 10:41 am

Katheryn, why do you suppose we remember that we had an idea rather than the idea itself… I experience the same thing. Strange.

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jorgekafkazar October 22, 2009 at 1:45 pm

My favorite dream story: This woman used to have wonderful dreams, but could never remember them the next day. A friend suggested keeping a stack of 3 x 5 cards by the bed and writing down the dream as soon as she woke up. One day, the woman was having lunch and remembered that she’d has another of those numinous dreams the night before, in which a great secret had been revealed to her. Not only that, she remembered sitting up in bed and writing down the dream on one of the cards. Excited, she rushed upstairs. Sure enough, the top card had a message scrawled on it. It read: “Hoggamus-higgamus, men are polygamous; higgamus-hoggamus, women monogamous.”
.-= jorgekafkazar´s last blog ..Tenirax, Ch V =-.

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Anne October 22, 2009 at 4:11 pm

A dream? I don’t think so!

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jorgekafkazar October 21, 2009 at 8:01 pm

When i want to recover an idea, i try standing in the exact same spot in the same posture as when I had it. Works for me fairly often, anyway.

I recently found a note I’d written to myself about a year or two ago. I turned it into a one-act play in 3 hours. Those notes come in handy. My biggest problem is finding one of those idea notes that says something like: “NMGL FNORK PLRGISHES SNUM.” I’m positive it was a brilliant idea.
.-= jorgekafkazar´s last blog ..Tenirax, Ch V =-.

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Anne October 22, 2009 at 12:31 pm

It was Mad Magazine I think that years ago had a panel story about a brilliant dream… which turned out to be: one grunch the banana over there.

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Deb Carr September 25, 2009 at 6:08 pm

I like the idea about the index cards. They would be easy to file, too!
.-= Deb Carr´s last blog ..Tools for Writers – Alpha Smart and NEO =-.

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Caron December 31, 2008 at 5:08 pm

I saw this article and am humorously relieved to know that THE idea pours which through me and inspires my reading and researching between book writing needs to be written down. This last book idea, Kids Who See Ghosts, has been stalking and haunting me for several months now. I push it down and it bobs up again and is influencing my time and priorities. I put out a query for stories. I am doing an interview a week. I tentatively diddle with an outline. My agent likes the idea, thinks it will sell. Doing a book proposal feels a distance.

So maybe I am not so weird when an idea with a psychic hand pushes me forward and whispers terms in my ear to google and consider certain ideas as book info. I wonder if the idea would find a philanthropist who would pay me and give me the luxury of time? Love the muse and can muse find a cash surplus?

Thanks for the article and a respite of humor. Does anyone else intuit such topics and allow themselves to be carried into time by the muse?

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Joe December 31, 2008 at 3:03 pm

Started using Jott.. leave note for myself vebally and written message is sent to my e-mail in writing..used to put on tape recorder but would still have to type it out somewhere.

Has really come in handy.

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Linda Moore December 30, 2008 at 1:46 pm

This article is related to the one below it (about writing fast).

When I get an idea, the whole thing comes to me in all its intricate glory–all at one time. The faster I write, the more I can capture before it goes away.

I’ve tried using a tape recorder, but it’s too linear.

My best draft technique is to create a flow chart with words.

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