I’m constantly trying to cultivate this habit, that whenever I have an idea for something to write about, for this blog, for something else, whatever, that I’ll immediately write it down so that I don’t forget about it. But I’m not there yet. I’m only doing it like twenty-five percent of the time.
Sometimes it’s a logistical thing. Like I’ll be riding my bike on my way to work and something will pop in my head, and I’ll think, OK, I better write this down as soon as I get off my bike. But even that’s too much. It’s more than likely that, even if I’m only five minutes away from my destination, I’ll get distracted during those five minutes, my mind will wander, and my idea for whatever it was that I was thinking about, it’ll be gone.
Maybe I’ll be out for a long run. It’s whenever I’m out there, using my body in a repetitive action. It’s like after I’m physically engaged my mind is free to wander in a way that’s impossible to do while I’m standing still. But it’s not like I leave the house with a pen and paper.
A few times, usually when I come up with something that really captures my imagination, I’ll get worried that, just by the nature of where this idea was born, that it’s already doomed to be forgotten. Like in the middle of a long run. So I’ll start repeating it over and over in my head, trying to keep it fresh in my consciousness, so that I’ll be able to come home, head right to the computer and write down what I’ve been mulling over.
But a lot of the time it’s like a game of telephone. It’s just the nature of our brains, I guess, that it’s really hard to control our thoughts, to take an idea and to hold it down long enough to make it something that you can then shape and cultivate. The few times that I’ve successfully held an idea in my head, say for half an hour, I’ll come back and write it all up, but there’s that part of me that’s thinking, something’s different here. Something’s changed in between the instance of inspiration and the moment where I’m able to try and hash it out.
It’s the same process even if I’m out somewhere and I have the foresight to write down a good idea. How do I capture a whole idea in just a few words? Often times I’ll look at my notes later in the day and I’ll be like, what was I getting at here? What was it that inspired me to write this note in the first place?
The inspiration for this piece is my frustration of having lost too many good ideas. I’ll be nodding off to sleep at the end of the day and two or three sentences might jump out in my mind. My brain automatically starts piecing together a story or a joke or something, I won’t really be able to tell where it’ll all head until I sit down at the computer and start typing. But then I’ll fall asleep. I’ll wake up the next morning and I’ll have the residual feeling of having had a good idea, but now all I’m doing is drinking coffee and writing something about not knowing what to write about.
I’ve never been sailing, but it’s how I would describe what it feels like to sit at my computer and write. I’m out there in a boat on some body of water. I’ve got the sail up and I’m hoping to catch some wind. Where is it going to take me? Once I’ve got a nice gust, can I steer it to take me in a different direction?
I don’t know. I’ve got to practice. I guess I’ve got to be willing to sit in that boat even if I don’t feel any wind. I’ve got to write bullshit pieces like this every now and then about not knowing what I’m doing or not having anything to write about. But look at this, I’m done. Here I am. Is it my best piece? No way. But I’m somewhere. It’s definitely satisfying to imagine how much worse I’d feel if I hadn’t written anything at all.