when ideas disappear

A few nights ago, when I was more than halfway asleep, I found myself besieged by some ideas that I thought might be worth saving.  Like everyone else who’s ever admitted to trying their hand at stories or a novel, I get asked where my ideas come from.  Sometimes, the answers are more interesting than the question, though I’m not sure about the case at hand.  For me, some of the time, they come from the random confluence of two tangentially or unconnected things that happen to mesh in my brain.  Amusingly, these will sometimes reveal themselves, unbidden by any wish of mine, in the flow of conversation.   But some of the time, they are just the bumps in the road as I’m walking to the Land of Nod.

Working by the light of my phone, I dutifully wrote them down, trying to include enough information to allow me to reconstruct them come the morning. Of the four that I wrote down, three made sense in the light of the new day. One is a different take on a idea I’ve been kicking around for some long time now.  Keep watching, in hope 😉  One was inspired by the book I’d finished before turning out the light. One is an idea that came while driving. But the fourth consisted of a single word. Lucy.

And I have no idea what this fourth note was supposed to be. Lucy is the name of my parents’ dog. A lovely dog, and we were visiting mom and dad a few days ago, at the time I wrote this note to myself, but for the life of me (and how English have I become) but I can’t reconstruct the idea I had. All I have is the knowledge that half asleep, I thought that I had a good idea for a story that somehow related to Lucy, but no information and no idea of what that idea might actually be.

And it has to be Lucy the dog, since there are no other Lucys that I’ve been thinking about. There is an aikidoka named Lucy I used to practice with occasionally, years ago now, but I hadn’t thought about her for many years until I started conducting this most recent internal Lucy audit. There is the Scarlett Johannson movie, which I haven’t seen and which is on the list but not at present high on the list. There is I Love Lucy, but again, not something that’s had been in my mind recently. And I still have no idea why I wrote Lucy in my list of ideas, though I am half convinced that it was a good idea. Clearly, at the time I thought it was once worth saving, and that the single word Lucy would provide a sufficiency.

In retrospect, the irony of all this is that had I not woken up and written down Lucy on my list, I probably wouldn’t have remembered that I’d had an idea in the middle of the night, and I wouldn’t have found myself in this position of being haunted by the ghost of an idea but without the body of the idea to bury.

This has happened before. For more than 20 years, I’ve been haunted by the ghost of a mathematical idea, one that I didn’t write down before falling asleep. One that left the same hole in my imagination. It was after this mathematical ghost visitation that I started keeping paper and a pen by the bed, writing down the ideas that hit as I’m falling asleep. I’m still waiting for that mathematical idea to reveal itself, though I’m beginning to suspect that it just might not. Hopefully I won’t have to wait as long for Lucy to reveal herself.  But she hasn’t yet.

~ by Jim Anderson on 5 August 2017.

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