Unfortunately for me, my best ideas come to me right before I fall asleep. And I always convince myself that the idea is so good that I don’t need to write it down. I always think: Why would I write this down? This is too good to forget.
And the next morning, as I awake thoughtless, I am full of regret. My Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, my Academy Award-winning screenplay, my Tony-winning script…all lost in dreamland.
My writing now isn’t to grieve those lost ideas. They’re gone and there’s no reason to continue to mourn what I can’t even remember.
I’m writing now about ideas I keep, stored in a notebook or my phone or email drafts or Google Docs or Evernote or on the back of a paper place-setting from Steak & Shake (true story). Those ideas can still be pursued, can still be rejected, can still be stolen by other writers who had the same idea but they’ll win awards for writing it first.
Those ideas can sit as a sentence or two (or much, much more) for months and years before I make my way back to them. Sometimes I’ll add something small to them later and then ignore them for another year or five. And sometimes I know that I will never flesh out the idea to be anything beyond its present state.
But some ideas are too big to be forgotten before bed. They’re so big that I will force myself to run and grab my laptop and write until I pass out at the kitchen table at three in the morning.
Those ideas don’t come often in life. They are precious and need to be given the attention they deserve. And to give a new idea any time at all, you have to sacrifice time spent on something else.
Ideas excite me, and as soon as I get excited, the adrenaline gets going and the next thing I know I’m borrowing energy from the ideas themselves.
An Old Idea Comes Alive
Recently, I was looking at some old ideas I’d written down. Two ideas became one-page plays within fifteen minutes. I was feeling proud that I’d used up some old ideas, and I started looking for one that might be more of a challenge.
Then I saw an idea that was for a science fiction story. But now, thanks to the advancement of technology, it was just fiction.
Science fiction is any idea that occurs in the head and doesn’t exist yet, but soon will, and will change everything for everybody, and nothing will ever be the same again.
So I started making notes and writing scenes—I was consumed with making the idea come to life.
But then, as a reminder that ideas are like real people, it started making decisions for itself. What I had thought was a short story had become a novel. Later, it was a screenplay, which was a surprise, but that was fine with me.
But then, after just a day of life as a screenplay, it proved to be much more than a movie. The story had so many more opportunities, it had to be a scripted series. My only hope is that it doesn’t decide to become an epic poem next.
As I stated before, when a big idea (like this one) comes along, some priorities much change. So all of my open writing time is now focused on this idea. In my spare time, I google agents and the cost of printing scripts, and I try as hard as I can not to say what the idea is, which is difficult because it’s consuming my mind. When I have everything together, I’ll share the details here and create a Twitter account for it and everything. For now, I’ve got to keep on writing.