November 15, 2010

Keep a tape recorder by your bed

How many great ideas occurred to people as they were falling asleep and were lost forever when they couldn't recall them in the morning?

The first time this happened to me, I thought, "Oh, I can remember that," and promptly fell asleep, losing my idea for all time. It drove me nuts the next day. I could still feel it but it was just out of reach. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't latch onto it.

As writers, our ideas are our lifeblood so losing them is a real tragedy. After seeing too many ideas disappear into the mist, I became determined to find a way to capture them. The next day, I bought a handheld digital recorder at Amazon and it has lived on my night table ever since.

Has it saved me? Many times! It is so great to wake up, vaguely remembering the outline of an idea, and then be able to pick up the tape recorder and play back my thoughts. And there it is: that great idea -- saved!

This came up last night when I had a wonderful notion about the ending for a short story I've been planning to write. I love the concept of the story but I had hit a brick wall with the ending. Nothing seemed to work. Well, it came to me last night just as I was drifting away and I managed to reach for the recorder and mumble my idea into it before slipping into unconsciousness. Now I can write that story! 

Pads and notebooks are great but if you're like me, when you're falling asleep you don't want to turn on the light and sit up to write an idea down. It's so easy to push a button in the dark, speak my piece and drift off to sleep.

Save your ideas. Figure out systems to record them. And then write, write, write.

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