I hate those moments when I’m out walking, or washing the dishes, or doing my day job and an idea hits with no pen and paper handy. I try to carry the idea with me until I can get to a notebook, feeling like a debutante balancing a dictionary on her head.
Worse are the middle of the night shots of brilliance when you weigh the relative benefits of getting back to sleep and getting that perfect plot point that your brain has finally worked out for you in its now relaxed state. These nighttime realizations aren’t unique to authors alone. I remember reading in Oliver Sacks’s Musicophilia about composers haunted by the lines that came to them before they fell asleep, never to be remembered the next morning.
Why do we forget?
I used to envy people with photographic memories, or even more, those who seem to remember years past with the accuracy of a historian. Now, I’m not so sure. I would absolutely rock at trivia nights (not that I don’t already, of course…. ahem). Besides the obvious Jeopardy! streak I would no doubt have, it would absolutely be helpful for holding onto those spur of the moment ideas, or even better, gleaning all of the fodder from my awkward youth. It would even help me remember why some things were so important to me once. Old photos I’ve taken, like the one above. When I was in China, I put a prayer lock somewhere in this bunch on Mount Tai. Which lock was mine? I wonder now as I look at the picture. Even more puzzling, what did I pray for?
Still, I think if I were offered a perfect memory I would decline. I also think that there are reasons we’re allowed to forget and I can’t quite imagine a world where I keep every useless bit of information that I feed myself every day. Plus, imagination grows in the holes between memories like moss between sidewalk slabs. I’m not a memoir writer, but a fiction writer.
But I still want to help remember those writing ideas. I’ve heard of carrying a note card around, or dictating into a cell phone. Anyone else use a good trick?