A Few Tips for Remembering Inspiration

Inspiration can strike at any given time. It waits for no man or woman: one second it’s here, and the next it’s gone. You better hope the idea for your next billion-dollar book doesn’t occur to you while you’re in the middle of a test, a frustrating dilemma at work, or when you are otherwise occupied.

But the best inspirations come out of nowhere (like a school bus in the fog, I mean). Powerful, swift, and you’d never see it coming. All it’s waiting for is that trigger, the one thing that causes your head to flood with images of a world that could be, if only for your pen.

So you shouldn’t worry too much about inspiration striking at the wrong time (of course, if it does, you’re going to need to choose between the idea and your present occupation). What is more common is ideas occurring in spaces where there is no computer, paper, or otherwise to transcribe that idea and thus keep it from being forgotten.

I’d say more great ideas have been forgotten than have been expounded upon and used to make books. This can be for any number of reasons: forgetfulness, laziness, indifference, lack of skill, lack of motivation, and so on. But you’re a writer, aren’t you? You alone know the value of a great idea!

In fact, when you think of an idea, you probably wish you were writing it. Or, more accurately, you wish to have written it. That’s not to say that you would not enjoy writing it: just that you envision an end product, like the summary on the backs of most novels. You’re excited.

But no thrill, no matter how sweet, lasts forever. (and no, I’m not thinking about a string of romance novels anytime soon) Soon you’ll grow quietly satisfied with your idea once you’ve obsessed over it for four hours, and you might even forget about it. Nuh uh. Bad move. Remember all your ideas.

But sometimes you can’t help it. I know I’ve come up with cool ideas during long road trips and sleepless nights in bed, but I don’t know what they are. Not anymore. If you have a sudden inspiration, get out a piece of paper or fire up the computer and jot it down because you sure as heck don’t want to lose it.

But, as I said, sometimes there’s no device, pen, or scrap of paper around for you to record your ideas, and you’re at the mercy of inspiration’s torments. Well, not quite. Here’s where I give you a few techniques on remembering inspirations all by your lonesome.

Tip #1: Rehearse ideas in your mind. Go over what you’ve planned out a few times: the main plot, premise, names of hero, side heroes, villain, and other details that seem important. Don’t go and think of every detail all at once: make sure you can quote the main character’s name, backstory, description, and main course of events that he or she is liable to do during the story.

Tip #2: Memorize through verbal repetition. A tried-and-true favorite of our blab school forebears (real term, look it up), repeating something over and over is one of the best ways to commit it to memory. “The main character is John Doe, he’s an analyst for Dr. Merc, the villain of the story…” and so on.

Memorize names of people, places, phenomena, and anything else relevant that occurs to you in the process. Details are key here: not small details, of course. Your keywords for memorization are: interesting, important, or relevant. Andrew Pudewa, chief instructor at the Institute for Excellence in Writing, recommended these three words as criteria for gathering facts. Ask yourself: Is it interesting? Important? Relevant? If so, memorize it.

Tip #3: Talk about it. You won’t forget it if you talk about it. At the very least, you’ll remember the chat you had with your friend(s) about your new novel series, and that can be a link to remembering the idea itself. Talking about the idea in front of people can also help you process it: only the best details will come to mind as you’re summarizing it. Also, it kind of doubles as field testing.

Heck, even if you can just talk to yourself in an empty car, empty cubicle, or empty jail cell (O Henry, famous author, was a jailbird once. So was Dickens), you’ve got yourself a done deal. Talking is good, but talking with people is better. Do whatever you can, though, to ensure that you don’t forget your ideas.

“A single idea / the sudden flash of a thought / may be worth a million dollars.”

– Robert Collier

Good luck, and happy writing!

Be sure to check out my latest novel, Book 1 in the Praetors of Lost Magic Series, and our Publications page. Until then, writers!


Published by Van Ghalta

A cold, dark, mysterious character who purposefully wrote a story so that he could fit into it...A story where he himself WRITES stories, practices martial arts, blogs, plays airsoft, collects MTG trading cards, plays outdated video games, and writes weird, third-person bios for himself...

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