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Brainstorm, no pen, lost forever

By January 26, 2009January 27th, 2009Blogging, Critical Copywriting, How To, The Business

There are two things at play here: irresponsibility and intensive muse connections.


Once upon a time, I would have an inspired writing thought (oft times in the middle of the night) and even if pen and paper were steps and moments away, I’d say…nah, I’ll remember it later.

And every time, every single time, Id forget that brilliant thought by the time I found the means to write it down.

There is no excuse for this people. Take action and right it down. I’m proud to say that I do it now – every time. I got to the point where I thought, ‘This is just irresponsible. My muse is offering me a gift and I’m just pissing it away.’ Why would I do that? Why would you do that?

The answer that springs to mind is self-worth. If you aren’t getting your tush out of bed at 3am (or handily leaving a notebook by your bed), you aren’t taking your writing seriously enough. You aren’t believing that these gems are truly important. And where’s that gonna getcha? What’s that all about?

intensive muse connections

Something very cool has been happening to me lately. Every morning when I head out to take a long walk with my dogs, about 10 minutes in, my brain starts writing. Posts, ads, client work, novels (not the whole thing, just snippets), big ideas. I’m starting to think the soles of my feet are directly connected to the creative chunk of my brain.

It’s incredible. I’m totally into it. Literally, this voice, my truest voice, just starts talking…it’s a stream.

Now let’s all review the first half of this post. (pause, pause, pause) Okay, you all with me?

I’ve been incredibly lucky because I’ve remembered most of these walking mind extravaganzas…but I’ve lost some nuggets.

But, I can’t stop and write while I’m walking or I wouldn’t get to walk – and these 30 minutes are all I get! So, I’m going audio – I’ve got a mini tape recorder. It’ll be glued to my palm tomorrow morning…can’t wait to use it.

other solutions?

I’m guessing some of you face the same issues…how do you handle it? What works? What doesn’t? Have any illegible middle of the night scribbles you’re still hoping to decipher – I have many…

UPDATE: I’m thrilled to tell you all that this morning was glorious. I set out with my tape recorder…realizing that now that I was armed and ready, nothing might happen – so I allowed that – and even thought of a whole post about it (coming soon) – but suddenly, BOOM – there came they idea – I hit record and just started talking – it felt unnatural for about 3 seconds – so I made a joke (yes, outloud), laughed heartily at my wit…and kept talking…I captured the post – and thought of more ideas while I walked and talked. Loving my little Radio Shack MICRO-44.

Join the discussion 25 Comments

  • Laurin says:

    I just read that it’s theta brain waves upon awakening that give us those incredible, creative thoughts. I need a system to remember these gems as well, because I’m haunted by the ones that got away.

  • Julie Roads says:

    That’s right! And it’s the quiet and meditation of walking that stimulates that as well, I believe…

  • Anne Mayhew says:

    I was thinking mini tape player while reading the first portion of your post! I also tend to leave myself messages via phone. The notes section on my iphone has been very handy as well…keep the stream running!

  • Love this conversation! My process is different, and my practice of ALWAYS writing it down is not foolproof yet, but I’m close!

    I get my Incredible Idea downloads during hot yoga savasana, (dead body pose)! I keep a Moleskine book in my yoga bag & always try to capture these “butterflies” as I envisage them, by writing them down, right after class.

    Perhaps part of the challenge is that by entering a theta-wave generating mindset, we are by definition, electing to focus on that “allowing” energy, which is exactly NOT action-taking energy? And that’s why the capturing of the idea is so easy to resist?

  • Julie Roads says:

    Oooohhhh…really good point, Sarah.

  • Barbara says:

    You are so right to suggest having something to write an idea down at 3am. Anytime you have an idea, write it down.

  • Debra Snider says:

    This is so interesting! I use to feel exactly the same way and I still do for everything but my fiction writing. I discovered when I was writing “A Merger of Equals” that the inspirations for it didn’t dissipate, even when they were very specific bits of dialogue or whole paragraphs that formed just right in my mind. Instead, they percolated and brewed and then flew out via my fingertips when I did get back to work. That’s continued through a few short stories and into the novel I’m writing now. It makes life much simpler than it was on my very first fiction where I was so terrified of losing inspiration that I rarely slept or ate or interacted with anyone and basically wrote 24/7 (an amazingly creative experience for me, but hard on my family).

    But for everything else, I still do hang onto those nuggets of inspiration and reduce anxiety about forgetting them by jotting them down. I have the pad by the bed, the cute little notebooks in purses and laptop bags, electronic & real post-its all over the place, notes on my iPod & Blackberry, etc. etc., etc. Reviewing all this always spurs new ideas in addition to helping me remember old ones.

    Love your plan to use a mini-tape recorder; how fun to say “Note to self” seriously!

  • Julie Roads says:

    Debra – I am so going to say ‘note to self’ every time I use it! So interesting that the novel process was different for you…

  • Mel Menzies says:

    All my big ideas arrive at 4-5 a.m. I bought a voice activated tape recorder, but my muse flows only down a pen or via a QWERT.

    Not surprised that walking brings on your muse. A very ancient book by Dorothea Brande titled, I think, Write Right is all about right brain thinking. Manual activity or repetitive action – walking, ironing, weeding – bring it on!
    Mel Menzies, Author of A Painful Post Mortem

  • Julie Roads says:

    Mel – I’m really interested to see how my thoughts/muse react/s to the tape recorder…I agree it could be just big ideas…but I don’t know…will keep you posted!

  • --Deb says:

    You’ll love this … my second novel? The one that stuck at 3/4 finished? I got the idea from one of the most VIVID dreams I’ve ever had. It’s been about 10 years ago, but I can still remember it, and the idea was fabulous.

    The fact that the book is stuck because I can’t pin down some legal technicality from 1912 is frustrating to say the least, and I can only imagine how ticked off my muse is with me. Or, well, actually, I’m pretty sure this was my twin telling me this story … I hope she’s not mad at me for not finishing the book! Because, did I mention? GREAT idea.

    But, at least I remembered it when I woke up.

  • Sandra Foyt says:

    My problem is that my best thinking takes place in the shower. I keep a steno pad and pen in the bathroom to jot ideas that can’t wait, but it’s a messy solution. I do find that it’s important to write things down as soon as I leave the shower, or those creative impulses just slip away.

  • Susan Muphy says:

    I am exactly like this, and in fact, most people are! There’s a scientific explanation for that whole “it came to me in the middle of the night!” phenomenon.

    I am no scientist, but apparently when the mind is at rest, it is tuned into the “alpha” waves of brain function. In this state, it’s said, the mind is very malleable. In other words, it’s receptive and attentive to our imagination. More on this here:

    I write most of my blog posts first thing in the morning, when my mind is at its clearest (and possibly still basking in the night’s alpha-wave glow). These days, I keep my iPhone next to my bed. It came in handy the other night as I lay awake, typing up the bulk of a post that was swimming around in my head when I awoke at 2:30am.

    I like how you phrase it – gift from your muse – I think that’s exactly what it is!

  • Michele says:

    I’m ashamed to admit I’ve lost quite a few of those gems you mention. And I’m proud to say I’ve changed my ways! I now keep a small notebooks (and plenty of pens!) all around – in my purse, my camera bag, drawers… I’m the gal walking down the store aisle, running into the display ’cause I’m walking and jotting down ideas. ;-)

    Great post! So glad I noticed someone tweet it.


  • Julie Roads says:

    Sandra – only YOU in the shower, only you!!! LOL
    Susan – thank you for this awesome link!
    Michele – don’t be ashamed – know that you are brilliant for having these gems land in the first place and congrats on changing your ways!

  • --Deb says:

    Hey, I know people who keep dry erase markers in their showers so they can jot down ideas…

  • Teresa says:

    I used to have lots of good thoughts in the shower until I put a pad in there (it wasn’t dry erase; it actually used a pencil), and then the ideas stopped coming. Now I just sing in the shower. :}

    I bought a mini-recorder, but I can’t use that next to the bed as it would wake dh up. As well, I hate the sound of my voice on the recorder (my voice sounds much better in the shower).

    I do keep a notepad next to the bed, but I’ve rarely used it. During the day, I just run to a notepad if I get ideas…I get more exercise that way too.

  • Ron Miller says:

    This happens to me all the time. You would think I would learn to keep a notebook on my night stand. Sometimes, I just get out of bed, stumble into my office and scribble down the ideas.

    As for the walking, it’s just that your mind relaxes enough to start to let the ideas flow. I have it happen in the shower or while driving. My mind relaxes and I write whole posts, whole openings to articles. I’ve pulled over to write things down. I’ve gotten out of the shower and gone immediately to the computer to write.

    As one person suggested, a digital tape recorder is an excellent idea, but I think that kind of ruins the mood as soon as you start to recognize the ideas, they stop, so you only catch the most recent ones, not the ones that might have come.

    It’s a sticky situation, but I think you should keep a small notebook in your pocket where you just write the outline of your idea, a sentence, to remind you later. You don’t have to write the whole thing, although I must say I have been on walks where I called myself on my cell phone and left the opening to a story or post for myself so I wouldn’t forget. In cases like this I rarely forget.

    But if you don’t write down what you think in the middle of the night, that’s a different story. That I usually forget.

    Julie’s right. Don’t diss your muse. You’ll regret it.

    Ron Miller
    by Ron Miller blog

    • Julie Roads says:

      I’m thrilled to tell you all that this morning was glorious. I set out with my tape recorder…realizing that now that I was armed and ready, nothing might happen – so I allowed that – and even thought of a whole post about it (coming soon) – but suddenly, BOOM – there came they idea – I hit record and just started talking – it felt unnatural for about 3 seconds – so I made a joke (yes, outloud), laughed heartily at my wit…and kept talking…I captured the post – and thought of more ideas while I walked and talked. It rocked!

  • Ron Miller says:

    You’ve should start a regular podcast called Walking My Dogs in Martha’s Vineyard. Random thoughts from the mind of Julie Roads. I’m not kidding.


  • I love Evernote on my iPhone. I love audio, but I still crack myself up feeling like a spy sometimes or like the Michael Keaton guy in Night Shift. ” Note to self.”

  • My problem is if I don’t jot my idea down at 3am I simply can’t get back to sleep. And the longer I lie there waiting to get back to sleep the more awake I am.

    So I have to keep a notepad on my nightstand.
    And I also go for walks in my neighborhood with a mini notepad and pen…I have no idea what people think, but I’m wondering if the mini recorder would be better. Glad it’s working out for you!

  • Kellie says:

    I just stumbled on your site, found this post and comments, and am now laughing to myself at my desk. Runaway brilliance that occurs in bed, on walks, in the shower, and every other inappropriate moment when I am least prepared to record it? Check, check, check, and check! Just a few days ago I was wondering where my old portable tape recorder has gone, so it’s comforting to read that others have the same problem.

  • Julie Roads says:

    HI Kellie! I’m so glad you found me and that this post resonates…you know, now they have new digital recorders, so you can plug it into your computer and everything!!! Ah, technology!

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