When The Salmon Speaks, Do You Listen?

This made sense when I drew it. I swear.

Or: The One That Got Away

Last night, Trish and Becca came over to help me select a few of my paintings to donate to the Consortium’s art fundraiser. Afterward, Becca and I chatted about all things artsy, including noveling and blogging.

As I was replacing paintings on my overloaded art shelves, Becca said, “I almost had this great idea for a new story…but it didn’t quite materialize, and now I can’t remember it.”

I nodded in sympathy, having experienced such non-remembering of ideas more times than I care to not-forget. For a few moments, we discussed the merits of Writing Things Down, and then I remembered something.

“You know,” I said, “I just remembered something. I read somewhere that if we don’t quite remember a story idea, then maybe it wasn’t a valid story idea after all. If it really is The One, it’ll probably pop up again, even if we don’t write it down.”

Story Ideas Eat My Worms

Grandpa used to take us kids fishing every summer when my parents and I congregated with aunts, uncles, and cousins at the grandparental home in Oklahoma. We’d go out to a family friend’s property and fish from this rickety, ancient, sagging wooden bridge (which was okay for the ’80s but probably wouldn’t hold water [ha ha] with any safety standard of today).

Sometimes, we caught a fish, and there was much rejoicing, since Grandpa would be the one to clean it. Most times, though, we’d feel a twitch on our line, yank our fishing pole back, and reel in nothing but a soggy, half-eaten worm who was definitely not having a good day. Those crafty fish knew just how much to nibble without getting themselves in trouble. Which goes to show that a catfish is smarter than a 9-year-old human.

Last night, after Becca went home, I had an absolutely cramazing idea for a blog post.

I didn’t write it down.

This morning, I woke up not to a bright, sparkly new idea — but to a half-eaten, soggy, grumpy worm.

Big Fish Story

No! It really was that big! I promise!

I remember things about that blog post idea. It was gonna be smart, it was gonna be snarky-funny, and it was gonna give you dear inklings some great how-to-do-something info. That unwritten, now much-lamented blog post was going to be one of my best yet. It was gonna be The One.

It got away.

So now, I’m asking myself: Was that really The One? If it were The One, wouldn’t it have stuck around? Since all I ended up with was mangled bait, does that mean the Big One is still lurking out there somewhere?

And that thought leads to the image of me, wading out into the deep and getting half a leg bitten off by something that I wouldn’t have wanted on my line in the first place.

Ideas can be scary. Some of them have sharp teeth and are big enough to swallow you whole. They wait out there where it’s dark and deep, and oh, they move fast. I picture them as deep-sea angler fish the size of a VW Beetle.

Gone Fishin’

So, if you clicked through to that angler fish picture, you’ve now seen one of my greatest fears. Angler fish fascinate me — mostly because I find the sight of them terrifying. (Imagine my surprise and relief when, a few years back, I found out they’re about the size of my hand. Or smaller. No VWs, thank goodness.)

But, in spite of my fear, I still go fishin’. No, I’ve never fished out on the ocean — but even when I’m standing on the bank of a placid Oklahoma lake, my imagination supplies the endlessly deep water and the lurking, fishy creepazoids, thank you very much. Those shiver-your-spine thoughts don’t deter me from fishing…

…but still, let’s just say I’ll never become a noodler. ; )

Gone Writin’

So, what about this write-it-or-lose-it thing? Honestly, I can’t tell ya. I carry my scribblebook with me almost everywhere, and I’m always jotting down something. Are they all viable ideas? No. I’ve stuck a few soggy worms in there. Sometimes, the simple act of writing myself a note tells me that I won’t be looking at this idea again.

But still, I write ’em down, even if they’re nothing but water-logged mush. Because if I don’t write it down, I’ll always remember that flash of fin, that brief flick of a tail, and I’ll always wonder,

Was that The One?


And you, dear inklings? Do you keep a scribblebook? How faithful are you in recording those half-glimpsed ideas?

Or do you prefer the scribble-on-scraps technique of trapping those elusive ideas?

If you don’t capture an idea, do you choose to believe it wasn’t viable in the first place?

10 thoughts on “When The Salmon Speaks, Do You Listen?

  1. Ahh yes the ones that got away…. I tend to carry my scribble book but I find I can’t get stuff in there fast enough sometimes. I keep a digital recorder in my pocket for the same thing, I only hope I can get it turned on before I forget the gem. Sometimes saying it out loud takes it from THE ONE to what in the name of all that is holy….

    One of these days one of those snippets will be gold! And I as well love fishing almost too much but you are not going to pay me to stick my hand IN the fish to catch it. There is something inherently wrong with that. I will stick to flies and lures and those pesky little worms!

    Nice write up Courtney!

    • Thanks, Justin! Yes, I agree — there is no reason for my stick my hand into a dark, underwater hole…and then into the mouth of a fish. Just the thought of it makes my elbows goes weak and tingly! No thank you!

      Good idea on the digital recorder. I’ve tried using my iPhone for that, but the dumb thing is so slow, half of my inspiration has disappeared into nothingness before I’ve got the app pulled up! *sigh*

  2. Hi Courtney,
    Hey, I enjoyed your little “creepazoids” story:)
    Fishing…to me fishing has more of a metaphoric meaning, cause I don’t fish. Last fish I caught was pyranha from Amazon in Brazil. I ate it too. Your story almost makes me wanna go fishing.
    LOVE and see you around:)
    Derek @ Smart Goals

    • Ha! And your story makes me want to try eating a piranha, Derek! I had no idea those were even edible; one always hears the stories of them doing the eating! ; )

      Glad I could inspire a fishing desire. : ) Thanks so much for taking the time to come read and leave a comment!

  3. Ah, so true. But maybe you’re right. Maybe writing down the stinky, smelly, gooey, half-eaten worm ideas is just for the sake of making ourselves feel better later on. At least there’s no “What if?” combined with only a foggy memory.

    Either way, better safe than sorry, right? I probably should bring myself to write down things more often…not sure why my brain always thinks it has to filter things before they can graduate to “scribblebook level.” 🙂

    • Becca, the what-ifs are enough to make me want to scribble things down, even if they’re mushy and useless. I’d rather take the time for that than deal with that helpless-to-remember feeling!

      And I think the scribblebook is supposed to *be* the filter. ;D

  4. Pamela Davis says:

    I can definitely see and agree with how an idea gets eaten. I do believe in writing things down, and keep a small notebook with me when I’m out. At home I keep a notebook that is just for the book I’m currently working on, and any new idea, musing, thought, question, or phrase that enters my conscious brain ends up written down in that notebook. However, I never thought about writing down ideas for blogging–that’s a great idea. Oh and I find the idea of noodling to be terrifying.

    • Oooh, Pam — that’s a great idea, keeping a separate notebook for your work-in-progress! I’m going to ponder doing that. It would certainly make more sense than paging through my scribblebook, looking for that one scrawled note-to-self from six months ago! 😉

  5. Courtney,
    I certainly have lost ideas that came in the middle of the night! I’ve taken to sleeping with a pad and pen beside the bed. The worst, though, is when I have a great idea for a post and write it down and then later go back to work it and forget HOW I had intended to use it. Now I have a whole template that I fill in with my thoughts, theme, questions, story etc. When I fill that in, the idea is secured and I can go back at any time and write it.
    I carry an iPod with me at all times. I can put ideas in there that come as I go about my (offline) day.
    So nice to meet you Courtney!

    • It’s lovely to meet you as well, Lori! Thanks so much for dropping by to read and comment. I like your template idea. There have been many times I’ve jotted down a word or two, just certain that I’d remember the context later — but later, the hows and wherefores of that idea have vanished. It’s like I catch a fish, but when I reel it in, I suddenly forget what I’m supposed to do with it!

      I’m not a very good fisherwoman. Fisherperson. Whatever. ; )

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