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Yesterday, Saturday, in the middle of completing a complicated and extensive electronic travel expense report for my “day job,” I got an IDEA. A blessed writing idea. Something that I saw online, on my phone, or thought of as I waited for receipt images to upload, or heard outside my window caused that elusive lightbulb to flare into life.

I perked up immediately, sat taller in my chair, felt my heartrate increase, always so ecstatic to know that my creativity hadn’t died a tragic and permanent death in the struggle between being true to my writing soul and making financial ends meet.

“I’ll just finish the report and get writing,” I thought happily.


I did finish the report. Then I took my dogs outside. Then vacuumed. Then caught up on a BBC show I was fascinated with. Then threw in some laundry. Then showered and went out to dinner. Then came home and finished the book I began during my recent work travel before falling blissfully to sleep.

It wasn’t until this morning that I remembered the writing IDEA. More precisely, I remembered that I’d HAD an idea.

No! (That’s a slow-motion “Nooooooooo!” with the IDEA slipping from my grasp, tumbling over the cliff into the oblivion of Mt. Doom’s lava furnace.)


Frantically I tried to back track—what, precisely had I been doing when I got the IDEA? I went back and read the emails I’d referred to. I visited Google maps. I pulled out my receipts. I looked at the photos on my phone (since I’d had to take pictures of paper receipts for upload). I sat in my desk chair and looked around my office at the papers and books surrounding the space. I listened to the unknown, insistently-singing bird outside my window. I scrolled back and reviewed an entire day of Facebook posts by family and friends. Was it that Grammar Girl post on the timeline?? No, unfortunately not. That post, about the origin of the phrase “the bee’s knees” had piqued my interest (I am an amateur etymologist/linguist), but it wasn’t the source of the IDEA.

What else had I done? I’d looked through the paper mail that had arrived while I was traveling—thumbing through the latest Anthropologie catalog—loving the designs and disgusted at the prices, as usual.

No, nothing there.

And I’d returned emails, connecting with 4 new people on LinkedIn and looking at a few “pins” that Pinterest friends had sent to me.


I’d gotten the “Skye Boat Song” (with Stevenson’s poem/lyrics) stuck in my head while folding laundry. I ran over the song slowly. “Sing me a song of a lad <thought> that is gone…” Nope. Nothing.

After sixty minutes—a full hour of anxious searching—I began to resign myself to the truth.

The IDEA was lost.

I imagined it floating over my head, like a person near death—having left his/her body—hovers over the living. It wanted to return, I knew. But I couldn’t save it. Because I couldn’t see it. Couldn’t identify it. Couldn’t reach it. Couldn’t pull it back.

Looking back, I, of course, know that I should have stopped what I was doing. I should have halted in the middle of preparing that very important expense report and made a note of the IDEA. I usually do just that, but, for some stupid reason yesterday, I didn’t think I would forget.

I’d lost ideas before in much the same way. I’d had “eureka moments” that slipped away into nothingness—fell victim to my busy life and cluttered mind. And after those losses, I’d researched the best practices in capturing ideas and vowed to always carry a notebook, always write down dreams immediately upon waking, and always record an idea the moment that it occurred.

And I’d kept those vows each time…for a time, at least.

It’s human nature, I suppose. We constantly lapse in our resolutions. We wake up with a headache or stomach upset after one too many glasses of wine, one too many cupcakes, or one too many forkfuls of spaghetti the night before and vow to moderate in the future, only to eventually indulge and regret once more. Or we plan to exercise, organize, or make time to write/create or educate ourselves and the first little bump interrupts our good intentions—bad weather so we can’t walk, a phone call from a friend so we can’t clean our desk, a sniffle or sneeze so we can’t attend a lecture or class, our favorite pen runs out of ink…

Thankfully, it’s also human nature to begin again. We learn from the past, but we move toward the future.

I do regret losing you, IDEA. I will endeavor to remember the loss of you each time the lightbulb of creativity gifts me with the impulse of a new IDEA. I swear to you that, when that moment happens, I will turn away from commonplace duties and give my full attention to the writing magic. I will heed the call of the muse over the call of the mundane.

Promise. Cross my heart. Unless, you know, I forget….