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What I Learned about Writing this Week…from Trusting My Brain

Oh, my dearest inklings. This WILAWriTWe invites you to nod sagely and go, “Mmm-hm. Yes, we knew that already. Haven’t you been paying attention to your own blog, Courtney?”

Sadly, the answer to that internal question of yours is, “Apparently not.” But before I continue in this vein too reminiscent of vaguebooking (would that be vagueblogging?), let me enumerate whence originate these unspecific yet somewhat self-deprecatory ruminations.

And yes, I have ingested coffee.


So. A few days ago, I was somewhere. I don’t remember where. But someone said something, and I thought, “Aha! That’s gonna be the basis for my next WILAWriTWe!” Or maybe I saw something that elicited similar mental exclamations. Or perhaps I was watching something or reading something that made an inner moodstring go twang. Whatever it was, it caused me to pen an entire article inside my head in the space of about three seconds. Give or take a couple hundred microseconds.

However, as the preceding paragraph might have already made you realize, I no longer recall what the inspiration was or what the inspiration inspired me to. Because, my darlings, I failed to write it down.

Aaron has talked about it. We’ve all heard it before. I’ve probably even mentioned it myself somewhere here at Unstressed Syllables. The “it” in question is this: Carry around a scribblebook. Keep scratch paper with you at all times. If nothing else, grab a pen and make illegible microdots on the back of a receipt. Or on the front. Whatever implements you choose, take them to hand and write down your idea.

Don’t trust your brain – your brain’s not trustworthy. It’s got too much going on in it already. It’s trying to remember to pick your kids up from school or to balance your checkbook or to call your mother. You can’t expect it to remember brilliant flashes of creativity. Because those are brilliant flashes of creativity. They are, by nature, brief, temporary, fleeting, insert redundant and overemphatic synonym here. They last – whaddaya know – about three seconds. And if you don’t capture them via some sort of writing instrument paired with a receptive writing surface, those glorious flashes are going to go the way of the dodo. (And if you don’t know what happened to the dodos, I recommend a viewing of Ice Age.)

If ya wanna change the world, ya gotta take notes. Such is the nature of the writing life. I know this. I know this very well. I now reap the disappointing fruits of having ignored this knowledge in favor of whatever foolishness caused me to think I would remember the brain-penned article that turned out to be a whole lot more ephemeral than I imagined.

Therefore, in lieu of a magnificent article chock-full (what is chock, anyway? and why is it good for things to be full of it?) of sweet tidbits for your muses to chew on, I offer these coffee-inspired ramblings to encourage you: Be more diligent than I! Record your cramazing flashes in some permanent fashion – or even a semi-permanent one! Make use of that scribblebook or those (shudder) Starbucks receipts you were going to throw away. Please, I implore you: Don’t consign the light of imagination to the outer darkness of forgetfulness!

And that’s WILAWriTWe. 🙂

Photo credit Julie V. Photography.

2 Responses to “What I Learned about Writing this Week…from Trusting My Brain”

  1. I have talked about this before too. I keep a digital recorder with me as well as a notebook. I screwed up the other day though and went fishing without either. I had 2 or 3 good posts written in my head and I can’t remember hardly any of them. You try to recreate but it just isn’t the same.

  2. Courtney Cantrell says:

    No, it’s really not the same…occasionally, though, the recreation turns out to be better! Or at least more nuanced. Or something. My main problem is waking up from a dream I know would make a great storyline and not writing it down immediately — and ten minutes later, it’s gone forever. :