Ideas Manifest at the Strangest Times

The ideas or writing topics I conjure up tend to manifest themselves at the strangest of times. Most of these ideas hit me when I’m least prepared, and when I can’t quickly make a note to help me remember later. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a brilliant idea to write about, only to forget the idea when I tried to jot it down as a memo or writing prompt.

Sometimes ideas come to me while driving, sometimes inspiration comes when showering, and sometimes a dinner conversation will spark inspiration for a short story. If I don’t make a note of the idea, it’ll be lost forever. just like the great idea I just thought of today while I was holding my “Johnson” at the urinal, while hoping I won’t forget by the time I get back to my computer.

Just before Sleep

I really should keep a notepad next to my bed. I can’t tell you how many times I think of a great story in bed, just before falling to sleep. I lay out the entire story in my head and think of how I can expand it into a whole article, just before falling asleep and… forgetting it.

This happened recently. I though of a great idea to write about and knew I should jot a note down, but knew my sleep would suffer if I turned on my phone to capture the idea, so I didn’t. As my body went into sleep-mode, I tried to repeat the main points of the subject over and over in my head, hoping that tonight will be different and I’ll remember this idea…


The supposedly best idea I ever had was forgotten by morning.

In the Restroom

I’ve had several ideas that popped into my head while urinating. Here I am minding my own business, holding my “business”, when… Poof! Idea, plot, and conclusion all play out in my head while I’m mid-stream.

This happens most often in a public restroom, where it would look odd if I whipped out my phone to take a note. I’ve got to try to hold the thought as I finish at the urinal and wash my hands. By the time I’m ready to take a note or writing prompt, the idea disappears into the ether.

Why can’t I get an idea when I’m sitting on the pot or something?!

Also, don’t act like you don’t browse your phone or scroll through your news feeds while sitting in the restroom!

While Socializing

Oftentimes, I’ll find myself in a conversation, and something will cause a spark of inspiration on a related subject I should write about. If such inspiration hits me while socializing, that means I have to find a way to discretely capture the idea before I forget it.

This is easy if I’m with a group of people, because the attention isn’t focused on me. But if it’s just me and another person, I had better be comfortable enough with them to be able to take out my phone to jot down a note.

When Driving

I’ve been on several road trips when a writing topic presented itself while I’m driving. I try to be a safe driver at all times, and don’t want to take a note while I’m at the wheel, so I’ve tried several methods to take notes when inspiration happens.

I dislike using automated assistants because it requires some attention to get the “assistant” to activate on my phone, and then it may not capture my writing prompt well enough for me to pick up at a later time.

When I have a friend with me, I’ll ask for them to text me a simple message of a few key words to help me remember. Unfortunately, I’ve got a friend who intentionally sabotages these memo texts by writing nonsense.

I’ll make my request to take a note and notice the message arrives and thank them, only to find out later that I have nonsense that I can’t use. I have to re-remember what it was that I wanted to write about.

How do you justify changing a simple note like: “Dogs in Shepherd[, Texas]” to: “Dogs shopping”.

Why are you sabotaging me?! I’m doing you a favor and prolonging your life by not texting and driving!

How do I record these ideas?

Any way I can. I use a backlit Bluetooth keyboard on my phone and regularly use it to text and email. The easiest method of note taking is by sending myself a text. It’s perfect if there’s an idea that can be saved with a few sentences and I don’t have to worry about an app failing, which causes me to lose all that raw data. And it’s as quick and simple as texting a friend, even without the keyboard. Having the backlit Bluetooth keyboard allows me to type anywhere, at any time of day or night.

Unfortunately, text messages have a couple drawbacks. They can’t contain special formatting to provide emphasis, and they are limited to a certain number of rows in the message.

A better method is to email myself notes on a topic or idea. Emailing allows for a lot of information to be recorded, especially if I suddenly feel inspired and want to continue writing on individual or multiple subjects. I can format my text to provide emphasis to words, and highlight to flag sentences or paragraphs that need to be reworked later. Emailing can be done anywhere, and when I’m done or get interrupted, I can simply send it to myself and the work is saved in the email server.

Just like texting my ideas, there’s a few drawbacks with emailing ideas from my phone. Some email apps are incredibly unreliable. Google’s Gmail app only refreshes when it wants to[1]. As a writer, the greatest fear I have is that I’ll lose an idea or an app will fail and I lose all that time and effort writing something great.

It’s happened before and it’ll happen again.

Another complication with typing using my Bluetooth keyboard is the autocorrect function doesn’t work, nor does the spellchecker in the email apps. I don’t mind this because it gives me an extra opportunity to rework the story while spellchecking in a Word document.

Actually, I copy all my notes into a Word document. You can’t beat the functionality of a PC with Microsoft Word. I copy my texted notes to an email, send them to myself, and all those emails get transferred and saved in a Word document.

Why don’t I use the Word app?

The functionality of the mobile version is too limited, the size of the document on the screen of a mobile phone is too small, and I don’t like the thought of repurchasing something I already own (especially if it’s of poorer quality).

Ideas and writing topics can manifest themselves at any time… usually when it’s most inconvenient. It can seem like a tantalizing curse to have a muse who only hits you up while you’re driving, peeing, at the verge of passing the sleep-barrier, or gets jealous that you’re talking to someone else. The goal is to find ways to cope with this pesky muse-turn-gremlin, and record those great thoughts as soon as possible.

If you can manage that, you’re on the right path to become a great writer.

Thank you to my stalker-muse:

That pervert who butts his head into my urinal.

That creep who whispers to me in bed and watches while I sleep.

That jealous mistress who can’t stand that I try to have a social life.

That gremlin who may or may not want to kill me while driving.


[1] Gmail Refreshing – I can have full signal strength and make several attempts to refresh my emails for 5 days straight, and it will still show old emails I already reviewed/deleted on my PC days ago. It doesn’t inspire much confidence and causes anxiety when I see the same email I drafted in the app’s outbox.

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