New “Writer Problems” Series, Topic #8: Forgetting Your Best Ideas

by | Sep 13, 2021 | Articles | 0 comments

We’ve all been there: lying in bed, on the edge of sleep, when a brilliant idea floats in from the ether. Maybe it’s a fully-formed snippet of dialogue, or maybe something technical, like a major plot point. And before you drift off to sleep, you have to get up to write it down, orit’s gone.

Maybe the idea won’t wait until you’re trying to go to sleep. You could be out with your spouse or partner, a group of friends, or even in a business meeting. This wonderful idea pops into your head, but it would be awkward or inconvenient to write it down. What do you do?

 

Take the Hint, Accept the Gift

One of my favorite writers is Hunter S. Thompson, who had a great, all-compassing expression: “Buy the ticket, take the ride.” When it comes to inspiration, my advice has a similar structure: Take the hint, accept the gift.

I’ve been on both sides of the equation. Typically it’s when I’m close to falling asleep. (See my post on insomnia for more on that writer problem.) While I may not get much inspiration during the dayI’m naturally best at editing in the morning, creating copy in the afternoonsome of my most awe-inspiring ideas have come right on that edge of consciousness between wakefulness and sleep.

And yes, I’ve done both: selling myself the lie that I’ll remember in the morning, which I never do, or getting up and groggily writing it all down. I’ve regretted doing the former every time, but never regretted doing the latter. That’s how I’ve learned to accept these gifts when they come.

 

What If I’m With People?

It’s a fair question. Whereas rolling out of bed to write is one thing, walking away from people abruptly is quite another. Or do you just whip out your smartphone and start tapping away?

Personally, I’m a big proponent of the bathroom break for awkward situations. While a restroom might not be the most romantic place to jot down a few ideas, it’s infinitely preferable to ignoring a loved one or business associate. And no one can accuse you of being rude for answering nature’s call. They don’t have to know what you’re really doing in there, do they?

As funny as all this may sound, it’s serious stuff for us writers. Sure, we don’t want our sleep disturbed, or our relationships damaged, but the muse is not convenient by nature. I say it’s best to respond whenever possible.

What about you? Do you sometimes postpone a good night’s sleep, or interrupt a romantic dinner, with a quick visit to your WIP? Let me know in the comments.

anti-vaxxer

Anti-Vaxxer Hysteria and the Mo-ron Contingent

I can’t help but wonder: what kind of idiot do you have to be to believe that Bill Gates has nothing better to do than follow you around while you schlep to Wal-Mart, pick up your dry cleaning, and eat the free breadsticks at Olive Garden? I've always got my cell...
balance

New “Writer Problems” Series, Topic #7: The Elusive Search for Balance

It's Labor Day today, and what are my wife and I doing? You guessed it: laboring! I've just finished a massive job, editing a manuscript for a 90-something client. Hey, God bless him, right? And God bless me for having the intestinal fortitude to get through the most...
proofreading

The Improtance Of Poorfreading

So right up front, I know I'm taking a gamble with today's headline. I only hope most readers of this blog will be able to translate Improtance into Importance, and Poorfreading into Proofreading. Goodness knows Spellcheck tried to change them on me. The reason for...

Books As Extended Business Cards

As I mentioned on here a couple weeks back, my freelance copywriting gigs feed my addiction to writing fiction, not vice-versa. However, my copywriting business is just part of a larger vision for Sahno Publishing, and that's a publishing company that provides...
short blog long video

A Short Blog Post, But A Long Video Interview

Most of my Monday blog posts are a few hundred words long. Sometimes that's because I'm just plain long-winded (hey, I'm a novelist!), but usually it's for SEO purposes. The Google machine tells you that your "content" should always be at least 300 words long. In a...
followers

Frances Caballo on Why You Should Never Buy Twitter Followers or Facebook Likes

I don't often feature guest posts on my blog, but today's post is a special exception. Social media guru Frances Caballo graciously accepted my invitation to guest here.If you don't know Frances, you should: she's the author of numerous books on social media for...
famous

Almost Famous—And That’ll Have To Be Enough

Last week I was on the phone with someone who asked me, "Are you the same Mike Sahno who wrote Whizzers?" I must admit, my initial reaction was not a confident, “I certainly am.” In the almost three years since its publication, no stranger has ever asked me that...
morning

5 Things to Do Before You Begin Your Writing Day

What should you do before you start your writing day? I've read plenty of advice on topics like this over the years, and I have to say upfront: I don't think there's a right way or a wrong way. You have to do what works for you. However, I've also tried to do things...
Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones and Storytelling

Writing is a funny game. You make stuff up and it goes from your head to your fingers, then to a screen via keyboard, or a page via writing implement. But of course, we all know that's not the oldest way of telling stories. Really, stories began with cave drawings and...
music

Music, Music, Music, and “I Could Write a Book”

I woke up thinking about Turkish drummers. It didn't take long—I don't know much about Turkish drummers. —Bruce Cockburn Music has always been a big part of my life. Maybe not everyone who reads this blog knows that, but anyone who knows me does. From the time I was a...
self-promotion

What’s The Problem With Shameless Self-Promotion?

While I still find it somewhat hard to believe, I've been on Twitter for almost eight years. I know this not only because Twitter shows Joined March 2015 on my profile but also because, even if they eliminate that feature, I use a tracker called Who Unfollowed Me? If...
MLK

MLK Day 2023

Here’s wishing everyone a safe, sane Martin Luther King Jr. Day. For many of us, today is always something of a day of mourning: not only mourning the loss of a great civil rights leader, but also mourning the turn our great nation seemed to take in recent years....

Twitter Tips for Authors in 2023

If you follow my blog, you probably connected with me via Twitter, whether you’re a fellow author or not. In 2020, I wrote a post about Twitter for fellow writers that got a good response. Three years later, the landscape has changed, but some Twitter best practices...
rails

Going Off The Rails (But Not On A Crazy Train)

Last April, I wrote a blog post called Back on Track With a Work-In-Progress. Part of that post was to talk about the difference between a “plotter” and a “pantser” (and to describe myself as a hybrid of the two, a “plantser”). Another, less obvious motive, was to...
French

Those Tricky French Authors and Their Obsessions

Today’s blog post was originally going to be Write Whatever the @#$% You Want, Pt. III. However, after seeing parts I and II lined up, I decided to call an audible and make it something less repetitive. Somehow the SEO gods have gotten into my head. As I’ve mentioned...
scared

Write Whatever the @#$% You Want, Pt. II

In last week’s post, I mentioned a pretty well-known author who has publicly reported his publisher “wouldn’t touch” a new release, in part because a character in his novel referred to herself as “fat.” I heard this story on a podcast, and I remember thinking, “Wait...
censorship

Write Whatever the @#$% You Want

I’ve been stewing on this for a while. It’s been brewing for quite a while. I could probably write a song about it (how about a rap?), but I don’t think I will. This is more of a blog post topic, and it might even deserve a series. And that’s the title and topic of...
gratitude

Should Every Month Be Gratitude Month?

When I was a kid, I loved Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz. I read it daily and collected nearly every paperback volume of the cartoon, so I could see what I’d missed since the comic strip’s inception in 1950.  Certain things stuck: quotes like “happiness is a warm puppy”...
robot

More Thoughts On Robot Writers and The Tech Dystopia

A couple of months ago, I wrote a blog post here called When Will the Robot Overlords Replace Us? Apparently, I’m fairly obsessed with this stuff, because every time I come here and empty my brain, it seems to come up again. Today is no different. Part of the reason,...