Anyone who watched “Mad Men” last night will know what I mean by this reminder: Write it down!
Poor Paul Kinsey has the perfect idea for the Western Union ad campaign, but in his drunken, exhausted state of euphoria he doesn’t write down his idea—despite being in his office, where there are loads of pens, papers, and even a Dictaphone. Of course he can’t remember the idea the next morning and so rather than work to come up with something new, he wastes all his time before the big meeting retracing his steps, trying to find magical, perfect, “lost idea.”
As a writer, I would guess this only has to happen once—maybe twice—before we learn. If I don’t have a piece of paper with me, I will repeat a few key words to whoever’s with me—so they can help remember, but often the act of speaking the words out loud will imprint them more firmly on my memory.
And though I had a pang of recognition at Paul’s problem, the more thorny issue, of course, is what probably happens more often: you get the great idea in your drunken, exhausted state—or in a dreamlike trance—or anywhere—and you DO write it down, but the next day it makes no sense. (There was a funny "Seinfeld" episode about this.)
Even more likely than that: you write it down, but when you read it the next day…eh. You’re actually NOT a genius, darn it. But at least you're not wasting all your time and energy trying to find perfection that doesn't actually exist.