Ideas are like fish. If you want to catch little fish, you can stay in the shallow water. But if you want to catch the big fish, you’ve got to go deeper. Down deep, the fish are more powerful and more pure. They’re huge and abstract. And they’re very beautiful.” ~ David Lynch, Catching The Big Fish
I reached for my razor in the steamy shower, and the idea landed with an electric shock. Squinting, I plucked a pencil from its holder and scribbled down some notes on the waterproof notepad which was fastened with suction cups on the back wall of the shower.
I was damn proud of myself.
“Gotcha!” I said to the notepad.
After losing dozens of what I thought were great, shower-born ideas, I purchased a waterproof notepad and pencil. I was sure this new capture system would solve my challenge of letting creative musings slip through my fingers along with shampoo suds.
In my smug confidence, I started humming and finished my shower. I proceeded to get ready for the day and leave for a walk with Sophie. I had an extra spring in my step along the trail, knowing I would be returning to my desk later that morning to feast upon my fabulous idea and flesh it out to its full glory.
Back home, I ripped the note from the pad in the shower and read the scribbles.
My beautiful idea not only had faded, but was continuing to fade even as I held it in my hand. The paper and writing it held were completely intact, but the energy of the idea was flatlining.
I grabbed my notebook, the now disintegrating idea, and my pen and tried to do CPR.
I was able to keep a tiny heartbeat in the idea and quickly sketch out some possibilities with it, but its once stately vigor and color were gone.
And so was my excitement.
I have journals filled with these moments of inspiration. Scattered, scribbled headlines of ideas with no depth or description. And when I go back, the vast majority of what is on the page is like day-old Pepsi.
Liz Gilbert has a beautiful way of sharing how American poet, Ruth Stone, described the elusive nature of ideas in her TED Talk titled, “Your Elusive Creative Genius.”
“I had this encounter recently where I met the extraordinary American poet Ruth Stone, who’s now in her 90s, but she’s been a poet her entire life and she told me that when she was growing up in rural Virginia, she would be out working in the fields, and she said she would feel and hear a poem coming at her from over the landscape. And she said it was like a thunderous train of air. And it would come barreling down at her over the landscape. And she felt it coming, because it would shake the earth under her feet.
She knew that she had only one thing to do at that point, and that was to, in her words, “run like hell.” And she would run like hell to the house and she would be getting chased by this poem, and the whole deal was that she had to get to a piece of paper and a pencil fast enough so that when it thundered through her, she could collect it and grab it on the page.
And other times she wouldn’t be fast enough, so she’d be running and running, and she wouldn’t get to the house and the poem would barrel through her and she would miss it and she said it would continue on across the landscape, looking, as she put it “for another poet.”
And then there were these times — this is the piece I never forgot — she said that there were moments where she would almost miss it, right? So, she’s running to the house and she’s looking for the paper and the poem passes through her, and she grabs a pencil just as it’s going through her, and then she said, it was like she would reach out with her other hand and she would catch it. She would catch the poem by its tail, and she would pull it backwards into her body as she was transcribing on the page.
And in these instances, the poem would come up on the page perfect and intact but backwards, from the last word to the first.”
Take a spin!!! Bring your notebook. Write the idea down in its entirety. And this is most important: Capture all the energy and emotion of it. You can have the content of the idea outlined, yet miss the passion of why this has taken such a hold of you. Without probing the zingy and tingly feelings, you can miss its message for you. Get it all down.
Listen. Dance. Capture. Write. Share. These ideas are the very ones you need (and most certainly we all need). At that moment, The Muse has chosen you to be the conduit of her message and accompanying inspiration to create with it. She knows it will be well shepherded by you.
Answer the call. Don’t resist it or she will move on, finding another suitable creator to give it its full due.
When you return from your adventure, don’t forget to tell us all about it.