Thursday, November 05, 2009

The Ones That Get Away

Raymond Carver’s collection of stories entitled Where I’m Calling From is on my nightstand along with a paperback copy of John Irving’s The Water-Method Man, a postcard picture of Mt. Kahtadin, and a photo of me fishing with my kids in Maine’s Baxter State Park.

Not a pen and not a pad of paper.

So I missed one last night.

Not sure entirely what I missed. My watch read 1:13 a.m. when I woke, not from a dream, but rather with an idea. Something had come to me in the middle of the night, something to do with what I’m writing, a whispered suggestion from the gray edges of my subconscious. I can remember only that, like a clumsy fisherman, I fumbled around the nightstand in search of paper and pen only to locate Raymond Carver—who sure as hell doesn’t need my cluttered ideas.

So, at 1:13 a.m., I had a choice: Stand and find something to write on…or roll over, convincing myself I’d remember the idea in vivid detail in the morning.


And, thus, I missed one.

This is not a fishing tale. I won’t tell you that the idea was T—H—I—S G—R—E—A—T! I don’t know how it would have impacted my story. Maybe not much. But maybe, just maybe…

And that’s the point of this entry. I know I should sleep with a pen and pad next to my bed. I tell fiction students to do it. In my weeklong summer workshop, I even give each student a pad, insisting they carry it with them and fill it with ideas or character sketches or lines of dialogue. Yet this morning, I am the parent who insists his child wear a bike helmet but fails to heed his own advice only to get a well-earned concussion. There will be a pad and a sharpened pencil next to Raymond carver tonight.

That’s where I’m calling from.


Susan D said...

Then there's the old suggestion that you phone yourself and leave a message.

Assuming the phone is right by the bed.

Assuming you can remember your own phone number when in an Alpha state.

Assuming you have--

Right. Pen and paper.

Dana King said...

I used to keep pen and next on my nightstand. Next morning I'd have some illegible junk on the pad, like bugs had dipped themselves in ink and dragged their brittle little bodies across the page.

On the rare days I could read what I wrote, my response was always, "What's this crap? I woke up to write this down?"

Ideas always seem better in dreams. That's because we're asleep and not paying attention. I forget which well-known writer said this, but I'm a big believer that if the idea's worth remembering, you'll remember it. You may want to sketch it out then, to add bits to, but you'll remember the core.

Rick Blechta said...

"Next morning I'd have some illegible junk on the pad, like bugs had dipped themselves in ink and dragged their brittle little bodies across the page."

Actually, Dana, this in itself is quite good. If you're not going to use it, please let me know, because I will!


Donis Casey said...

John, your idea went to idea heaven and joined all the brilliant ideas I've conceived in my sleep which died by morning.