Those forgotten great ideas

Copyright © 2013 Jerry Dunne

This post is about two great ideas I had then lost, why I lost them, whether I even had them, but what I gained from it all, anyway.

One night, having twisted and turned for ages, unable to nod off, I eventually and gratefully felt the blanket of sleep settle over my shoulders. Except, at that moment – bam! The greatest idea I’d ever had for a story sprang into my mind.

If I dared to think more on the idea, the mental stimulus would lift me right out of any slumbering state. Likewise, if I leapt out of bed, turned on the light and reached for a pen, I knew I’d go on writing for a while; and even once back in bed, I’d continue mulling the idea over in my head. Sleep would be a will-o’-the-wisp then. It was already past three and I had to be up for work at seven. These thoughts had taken only a handful of seconds to complete, so I was still on the cusp of dozing off.

It occurred to me that if this great idea was so great – which it was – a night’s snoozing couldn’t possibly wipe it from my memory. This one-in-a-million idea must have just branded itself into my memory, so wasn’t going anywhere soon. Nothing except proper memory loss could wipe it from my biological hard drive now.  Secure in the truth of this fact, I allowed myself the pleasure of drifting away into unconsciousness.

When I woke next morning, I instantly recalled I’d thought up a great idea and why I hadn’t bothered to rise and write it down. But as to the idea itself, I had no memory. Zilch! I shook my head. I pulled my hair.  Zilch! I went to work with a frown carved on my brow. Lunchtime came. I sat in the cafeteria with pen poised, waiting for the great idea to reappear with a fanfare of trumpets. Lunchtime passed. But for a few pathetic doodles, a page in my notepad remained blank. The afternoon passed. The evening passed. Lying in bed again, I suspected the great idea would return in a flash of glory just as I was falling asleep. The bedside light and paper and pen were but an arm’s length away. That night sleep swept over me in a moment. Zilch! That great idea has eluded me ever since.

The second great idea arrived when my creative antennae were twitching away in a frenzy, so I knew an idea would arrive from anywhere at any moment. Whether from overhearing a conversation, reading a newspaper or even just gazing through the window of the pub, something lively was going to spring out at me. I was actually overhearing a conversation when suddenly a snippet of it clashed head on with whatever aspect of the brain ‘plasma’ sparks off the imagination. A loud firework exploded, unleashing a multi-coloured shower of streaks and sparks, and as they descended slowly to earth – all happening in my mind, of course – they began to pattern the air with the words of another great idea.

Two things I had to bear in mind at this point. One, I’d learnt my lesson thoroughly from the last episode when sleep had deprived me of the first great idea forever. Since, I had taken especial pains in writing every idea down, although none of them had risen high enough in my estimation to warrant the label ‘the greatest idea I’d ever had’ like the one that had gotten away. Second, I was somewhat in a state of intoxicated light-headedness, which has forgetfulness as one of its major downsides. So I knew I had to cut and paste this idea from my mind onto paper, and the quicker the better, or else face the possibility of another catastrophe.

I scribbled away like a child with a crayon, filling half a sheet. Then I tucked the folded sheet away deep in my jacket pocket, downed the rest of my pint, smacked my lips together with smug satisfaction and congratulated myself on a masterful piece of tactical thinking as I rose to get another pint. It even occurred to me that this idea might be the one and the same as the great forgotten idea and that some sort of karma had helped regurgitate it up from the depths of my memory, with overhearing the snippet of conversation as the trigger for this.

The following day, I had completely forgotten about last night’s great idea, though hardly surprising due to the pace of my drinking. Only when I found the note in my jacket pocket did I become aware of it.

Even at the best of times my writing is quite the scrawl and I often struggle to make out my own written word, though do generally manage it. But when considerably light-headed and writing excitedly, hastily, as I must have done due to the belief that I had discovered another great idea – I could just make out the words at the top of the note ‘a really great idea’ – this had obviously taken its effect on my scrawl and every other word in the note looked like a row of trees battered and scattered by a hurricane.

Then memories of the previous day jumped into my mind. Now I recalled having an idea, that snippets of conversation had prompted it (though couldn’t remember what they were), and that I had eagerly written the idea down. In fact, I remembered everything except the idea itself. Once again, zilch!

Without the clarity of these words ‘a really great idea’, I would never have put myself through the mental assault course which followed.  My excitement picked up, and I ploughed on, desperate to read more. There were actually one or two other readable words in the dozen or so sentences of the note but that was it. I had no intention of giving up though. I was not going to lose my second ‘really great idea’.

I worked on that note on and off over a number of weeks as though I was decrypting a secret code. I would try and guess some letters of a word to see if I could then recognize the word itself, and next, by using this word as a clue, try and made sense of the clause. Once or twice, working in this way, it seemed that I had broken the meaning of a clause, and this really excited me, but I truly couldn’t be sure, and anyway, I never was able to break the meaning of the next clause in that sentence, if it actually was a sentence. What was really frustrating was that I could not even get a hint at what the great idea was about. Zilch!

Eventually, I realised I was staring at a complete dead end.

Karma, indeed. More like the Gods playing games with me.

Of course, as a form of consolation, now I like to think that none of these ideas were actually great, that in the cold light of day or sobriety their weaknesses would have become apparent. It’s just that I rarely stick the label ‘great’ on an idea unless I think it is. Not knowing was what plagued me.

But maybe there is a real consolation to be gained from it all in the end, though. I suppose it amounts to this: a great idea lost, a little story gained. Could there be a bit of karma involved, after all?

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