brilliant thought . . . forgotten

I nearly always write down the brilliant thoughts that come to me (for my stories — my other brilliant thoughts I just bestow on whoever is lucky enuf to be near me at the time). I have a written journal I’ve kept for more than thirty years, and I keep a pad of lined paper on my desk at work to scribble the brilliance down when it pops into my head there. For the most part this works, though I have yet to start re-reading my paper journal to glean all of the brilliance from it (and I suspect most of it will be cringe-worthy).

Sometimes, though, the brilliant thoughts come to me when I can’t write them down. When I’m driving, or running, or showering, or trying to feign attention in a meeting, or when I’d drifting off to sleep. For the most part I remember these long enuf to get myself to a piece of paper and a pencil (a mechanical pencil). Alas, sometimes they elude me. All I can conjure is the memory that I had some brilliant thought, but the harder I try to recall what it was, the farther it drifts away.

One thing I have learned about myself is that I am a context thinker. Many of my thoughts are tied to where I am or what I am doing at the time they occur to me. The context doesn’t generally influence the thought but merely tie to it. Thus I can be sitting at the office thinking to myself that when I get home, I must be sure to do such and such. Then I get home and all I can remember is that there was something I needed to do. The next day, when I get back to the familiar surroundings of the office the thought comes back to me. (I often think to write it down this time.)

So I don’t fret too much when I lose a brilliant thought. It nearly always comes back to me. This was the case recently with the story I’m currently musing that I’m calling “Icarus.” I remember having an insight about the story that I thought would really help with its development (since that’s where I’m struggling the most with it), but I couldn’t remember what that insight was. In fact, I couldn’t even remember what story I had the insight about, which doubled the frustration. But then, last night as I was drifting off to sleep, the idea returned to me. I didn’t immediately leap out of bed and grab a piece of paper and a (mechanical) pencil, but I did repeat the thought several times so my synapses could store it properly. It has to do with framing and flashbacks in the story, and I duly noted it this morning in the file where I’m keeping my notes.

Does this kind of thing every happen to you? How do you cope?

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2 Comments on “brilliant thought . . . forgotten”


  1. Happens to me all the time. I hope that the shadow of the thought will lead to some future brilliance. Or something.


  2. Like you, so much of what I remember is based on events and location, so if i forget something…I usually remember the next day. (Sometimes, being a creature of habit is not such a bad thing.) If it’s something I must get down, it goes in a notebook or Evernote. But mostly, I roll the idea around in my head enough — if it’s that good — that it stays there and is eventually brought into what I’m doing.


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