Ideas strike. Ideas infiltrate. Ideas emerge.
They also flow.
Sometimes an idea flows into my brain, entering my awareness like a sweetly meandering river. I admire the idea for a bit and think, “Wow, that’s great. I’ll never forget it.” At which point, naturally, it flows right out again, forgotten. That’s too bad when it happens but it’s also okay. I have come to learn the river will continue to flow.
Living literarily keeps the idea river flowing. Balancing reading and writing, memorizing poems, playing with words, and hosting occasional literary events opens my eyes to the torrent I have come to love: words, rhythms, meanings, rhymes, ideas, images. Acknowledging the river and giving up trying to stop or control it helps keep it moving. Allowing its flow unstops the dam and un-sticks the floating flotsam and jetsam blocking the creative current.
In the fall of 2007 I took strides toward The Life Literary, though I didn’t know it at the time. I collected new pieces of a literary life (like memorizing poems and writing Daily Sentences) and reclaimed old ones (like reading and puns) from my past. I remember getting ideas for things I could write, or even simply of images that delighted me, crying out to be expressed in words. Some of those sweeties in the river were so captivating, so fun and so good, I couldn’t imagine ever forgetting them. Of course I promptly did, quite a few of them at first. I remember wracking my brain. What was that word play, that image, that idea? What was it?? It was really good. My New Yorker essay, my bestseller: gone just like that?
Life lived literarily or otherwise is an odd balance of holding and letting go, taking and losing. I am discovering the joy of seeing and hearing, writing and speaking, riding the wave of the creative flow of the idea river. It’s not vital to always grasp it all. In fact I enjoy a certain freedom in letting some go, not scrambling to hold on, to grasp, to clutch.
I keep a Family Journal, a notebook I carry with me to write everything from ideas and images to grocery lists and phone numbers. As I fill one, I begin another. Many ideas I transpose from those journals to a searchable archive (this blog or my Google Site workshop). I know I’ll be able to retrieve them later. Many others I’ve written are, for now, lost among pages in notebooks on a shelf. Ideas maybe waiting for me to rediscover, precious word-jewels lost and forgotten. I’d rather acknowledge I’m going to lose some ideas in the river’s current, than scrape and grasp and grab just to make sure I get every last one.
It’s similar with photos. Sometimes I don’t take pictures. I’d rather watch life around me and experience it first-hand without a hunk of high-tech gadgetry between me and the world. It’s o.k. to keep some of those images, even of dear ones, only in the recesses of my memory.
The more I stop worrying about getting it all down and grabbing every idea floating by, the more I allow the river to swell and become, itself, a flood of ideas and images. I wept for joy the other day when I began to get a sense of the cascade inside me, the ideas and feelings and words that are mine to enjoy, to savor, to give away. My wealth is words and The Life Literary is my attempt to write at least some of them down for me and others to enjoy. Maybe readers will get ideas about how to tap undiscovered but brimful, sweet, reservoirs flooded with an unimaginable wash of words.