"It's impossible to discourage the real writers; they don't give a damn what you say." Sinclair Lewis

Monday, September 3, 2012

Jot It Down … Now

by Sherry Roseberry

Sage advice for writers: always, always, always write down inspiration when it strikes!

No matter if it happens when you have finally been able to climb into bed; or when you wake up during the middle of the night. If you don’t, you are not going to remember it! Trust me. Come morning that great line or scene grabber, so vividly laid out before you, will be erased from your memory. Or at best, it’ll turn up drab. I know this, but have I faithfully followed the sound advice?


As I was getting ready for bed one night, the perfect beginning to my latest book came to me. It was so good, so original I knew I’d remember it…. Not only did I not remember my gripping start, I didn’t even recall I had one until two days later. Two days later? Are you kidding me? And even at that, all I could conjure up was the opening line, “Is he dead?”

At least I get kudos for remembering that much. I mean, with somebody my age that’s as good as it gets.

I kicked myself for days until I thought of another first chapter. One with an opening that, I hope, will hook an agent, then an editor, and eventually readers. Lots and lots of readers. Is it as good as the first one? We’ll never know.

This isn’t the only time I flubbed up great inspiration. Several years ago, while I was mowing the lawn, mundane thoughts ran through my mind. Then the muse hit me, laying out a wonderful short story from start to finish. The idea was so good I tingled with excitement. I could hardly wait to write the story. And I’d get right to it ... as soon as I finished with the job at hand.

After I put the lawnmower away and washed up, I raced downstairs to my typewriter, (What? I told you it was several years ago) inserted the paper, and … nothing. No beginning, middle, or end. The brilliant prose laid out before me was gone. All I had left was the idea. I was hopelessly blocked. From that painful experience I promised myself I would always listen to my muse.

Now, after that incident, you would think I’d go around with a note pad and pencil permanently hanging from my neck. Not quite. I carry them in my purse. And, when I write my books, I make notes to myself as ideas come to me to use in future chapters. But, do I religiously jot down thoughts when they strike? As you’ve read above, I’m still working on that.

So take my advice, keep track of those special words, one-liners, or scenes that come to you or you will sorely regret it. Like me.

Disclaimer: Of course there are exceptions to every rule. And this one is no different. Especially if you are writing about children or have a child in your book. There are incidents that can happen during the night your brain will recall. Take for instance like when a squirming six-year-old sleeps with her grandmother.

Sometime during the wee hours of the morning she ended up with her feet on her pillow. Then she was using my stomach as a footrest. After that, I woke up again to find her knees pressed against my throat and moments later pushed off to roll over. Also she must have signed an affidavit stating that, while grandma is awake, she’d try her hardest to change positions every three to five seconds, always inching closer and closer.

Who could ever forget that?


  1. I've done that too, Sherry. It's so frustrating. On the other hand, one night I must have gotten up four or five times during the night to write down ideas. I saved the ideas but didn't get much sleep.

    I enjoyed the blog.

  2. Hi Sherry:

    Boy, can I relate to that. Many's the time I have awakened in the night with that brilliant line or even a whole scene, but too tired--or lazy--to get up and get it into the word processor. Other times, I've had these great ideas hit me in the shower--many times actually.
    How much more of an inopportune time can that be!


  3. I've done this so many times, Sherry. We always think we could never possibly forget, but as you said, even if we remember, all the pizazz seems to disappear if we wait until morning.

    Linda S.

  4. I do this a lot as a wake-up nearly every night about 3 o'clock in the morning, and wish I had the energy to put my thoughts down on paper or go down and boot up the computer. A very timely article. I enjoyed it. Mary Ann C.