When it happens to me, I’m usually in the bathtub.
I’m naked, of course, and covered with bubbles. Work is the last thing on my mind.
And then, all of a sudden, the light bulb comes on.
I have an IDEA!!!
But it’s more than a simple idea. It comes at me fast and furious, in complete sentences. The wording is beautiful, like something from one of those sprawling Great American Novel-type books I can only dream of writing. It’s the absolute most perfect, crystal-clear way of putting this thing I’ve been wrestling with, or maybe of starting something I’m planning to work on later, that could possibly exist in the entire universe.
It’s so perfect it physically HURTS.
So I jump out of the tub, wrap myself in a towel and run down the hall, leaving a trail of bubbles behind me. I get to my desk and open a document on my computer, plop down on my chair and get ready to write.
And then, just as fast as it appeared, it’s gone.
Whatever flash of brilliance I had like 30 seconds before vanishes without a trace. And I’m left sitting naked in a desk chair, wrapped in a towel, dripping bubbles on my keyboard…for no discernable reason.
Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever had what you just KNEW was an amazing idea, but the moment you were in a place where you could record it and save it, it disappeared?
Or am I just crazy? (not that the two concepts are mutually exclusive…)
The thing is, this scenario actually happens in my life – a lot. Since I’m always writing something, and usually multiple somethings, ideas are always coming to me at rather inopportune places and times. To the point where I’ve considered adding things like a waterproof voice recorder or a bathtub-friendly white board to my bathtime accoutrements.
this is where the magic happens…
But then the other day, I was writing a guest blog post for a friend about different types of writer’s block. And when I got to that one – Disappearing Idea Writer’s Block – it hit me. Maybe those ideas don’t actually disappear…because maybe I never actually had them in the first place.
(Yes, I even blew my own mind writing that last sentence.)
Maybe what comes into my head during those moments of bathtub inspiration aren’t actually the full-formed ideas I think they are, but are really only the beginnings of ideas – more like notions, kind of floating around in the air where anyone can grab onto them. Maybe my brain is just processing possibilities – but those possibilities are only really worth anything if there’s a place where they fit in with whatever I’m trying to communicate and make sense and make the piece better.
And if that place doesn’t exist yet – if I haven’t yet constructed the container where those ideas fit – they just kind of float away.
That might sound a little woo-woo – especially coming from me, the least woo-woo woman ever. But I like being able to think about my phantom ideas that way. instead of beating myself up for “letting” a flash of brilliance somehow escape me, I can trust that there wasn’t actually a place for it, that I wasn’t ready, and that, when I am, the right flash of brilliance will be there when I need it.
And if it’s not, I’ll go take a bath.
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