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Friday, June 12, 2009

Knocking on Wood

There is nothing better than when an idea descends in the middle of the night and you remember to write it down. I have a pad of paper and a pen on the bureau next to my bed for just such occurrences. It used to be there because things were so crazy at work that I’d wake in the dark remembering something I’d forgotten at the office. If I didn’t write it down, I’d stay up all night worrying. Thankfully, that is over for now, but at night my subconscious still percolates with blog ideas, essay inspirations, and yes, occasionally things pertaining to my future that I’ve forgotten to do.

The bad news is that sometimes I don’t tear off the top sheet that holds the idea, but carry the whole pad to the computer to record my revelation. I did that last week, and when I woke up in the middle of the night with a proverbial light bulb over my head and the pad wasn’t there, I could have cheerfully shot myself. And, no, it was dark, I was tired, surely I’d remember, right? I failed to get up to jot the thought down, and darn, wouldn't you know that Pulitzer Prize winner sunk back to the netherworld of my psyche, perhaps never to return again. Beats me how I’ll ever know.

Anyway, the night before last, this idea surfaced, the pad sat in its proper location, and I jotted down one simple sentence. The phrase thrilled me though, because it was tied to an essay that I tried to write once in 2004 and again in 2006, each time faltering midway. Since I haven’t given either incarnation any thought for a long while, it’s intriguing that a concept that solved my dilemma popped up over Wednesday night. Once it did though I couldn’t wait until morning to start working on that piece once again.

Routine wins out though, so while I wanted to run the computer when the alarm sounded, instead I showered, mulling the idea, made breakfast and lunch for my daughter, eyeballed my midnight jottings before drying my hair, dropped her off at school, came home, forced myself to check email and read my favorite NY Writer’s blog. Afraid to be too optimistic, only then did I allow myself sit down in front of a blank screen.

It was harder than I expected, but words came, and in less than two hours, I had the bones of an essay. So, I walked away, packed up the laptop—and The Copywriter’s Handbook, the self-assigned homework that I have been highlighting my way through this week. After a short walk, I read that for an hour while sipping coffee in the French cafĂ© downtown. When it got so loud there that I was forced to re-read words, I drove to the library. There, from 10:00 until 2:15, I sat in front of the laptop in a straight-backed chair pulled up to a cherry wood table, re-working the essay--plugging in pieces from my former attempts, shuffling, cutting, pasting, editing and word counting. Finally, I saved it to the flash drive, picked up my daughter at school and drove home, promising myself I wouldn’t look at it again until today.

This morning the essay came to mind first thing when I woke, and I actually prayed, well, more like begged: “Please, please, please when I open it this morning let it make sense and tell a smooth story.”

Whew. I’m pretty sure it does. After another hour of editing, I closed it down again. I’m not reading it again until Monday. Cross your fingers that I’m not jinxing myself by telling you this, but I feel good about this one.

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