I push through the door on a mission. Sweating freely, still in my workout shorts and walking shoes, I stalk directly to the dining room table and pick up my notebook. I hurriedly call the girl cats to me as we go outside to enjoy another sunny summer morning. Instead of stretching, as my throbbing muscles suggest, I sit down on the back porch and write. I need to capture this idea before it is gone.
Usually blogs come to me all at once, with a core idea and a title. The one in my head today I’ve held on to for the last 20 minutes while I finished my walk, reminding myself over and over again what I want to write about. The beautiful day, the grass swaying in the breeze, were lost to me as I have struggled to remember this idea long enough to write it down.
I feel myself slipping, losing the string of my narrative. My mental clarity is like sand running out between the fingers of my cupped hand, disappearing at an unstoppable, inexorable, devastating rate. My pencil stumbles in my notes, words start getting misspelled. I push, and eke out my last thought as I feel my mind clouding. I’m losing letters now, leaving them out of words, forgetting how they are shaped. Somehow I finish writing my last thought, captured so that I can refer to it sometime in the future, when I have energy to write. I might have had other thoughts – I really don’t know – but the fog means they’re gone and irretrievable now, almost like they never existed.
But. I try to focus on my successes. And this – blog thoughts successfully jotted into my notebook – is a success.
Every writer loses ideas. It is the nature of life to have a brilliant thought while far away from a piece of paper or a pencil, and to forget it before one retrieves such. With PCS, it is a whole different level of forgetting. When an idea is lost in the moment, it is like it never existed. No shadow of the idea will spring up in an hour. The brain doesn’t have energy to hold on to anything not of-this-moment, so that unwritten idea is dropped into the compost heap with millions of other bits of unprocessed information. And life moves on.
I find I have at least half of my blog ideas while walking in the morning. But, they can disappear with just a moment’s inattention. I’ll be thinking of a new blog, then notice that someone has a walnut tree in their yard and there are walnuts all over the road. How delightful! I’ve never seen such a small walnut tree before. I wonder what cultivar it is. Other thoughts? Gone. Or I’m walking and cross paths with a retired gentleman who takes his small dog for a walk every morning around 7 am. A quick chit and a chat. Anything else that was in my head? Gone. Or, walking back on US 2, some bozo doesn’t notice that I’m on the 2 1/2 feet of asphalt by the 50 mile an hour highway, and veers away from hitting me at the last minute. That’ll distract you. Idea? Gone.
Or maybe I have a plethora of ideas – three ideas – all brilliant of course, all keepers – and I try to hold on to all of them. One will make it home in pretty good shape. Another might have a title and one idea associated with it. What the third one was? No clue. It’s gone for good.
Another danger point of lost ideas is when I walk in the door at home. That’s why I make a beeline for my book, then outside. If Mary happens to be up and we start talking… that blog idea? Gone. Or I happen to glance over at the kitchen table and notice a library book I’ve been looking for. Oh, there it is, great! Likely, I’ll walk off right then, sit on the couch, and start reading… everything else forgotten. Or, I decide I’ll jot stuff down after I stretch – since I feel the most bendy when my muscles are warm. I’ll just do that, then I’ll write down my idea. After stretching, I wander over and look at the garden. Oh look, those tomatoes need to be harvested… hmmm I should clip off the blooms of all the basil so it will stay productive. Another idea never to be heard from again.
And all of this struggle isn’t even to write the blog itself. It is simply to get notes down so I will have some basis for writing a blog at some future point. The future, that fairy land, the dreamland where – for some unknown reason – time in the morning coincides with me tolerating the computer coincides with me getting a good night sleep coincides with me having the mental clarity to hold the core of a story together coincides with a certain transient mental quality that allows the words to flow onto the page in pleasing and understandable sentences.
I find my blog posts are better – they make more sense, flow more easily – if I write it all in one sitting. But in order for that to happen, my mental clarity has to last an hour, maybe two. Which, honestly, is a rare thing. I have so many blogs I started but ran out of steam before I could complete my idea. Most often I crash and burn around the 300 or 400 word mark. It’s for the usual reasons: fog, headache, confusion.
This is why there isn’t much writing from people with Post Concussion Syndrome (PCS) or mild Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI). The stars have to align, the person has to be in the right place at the right time, and by some miracle they must have the energy to create. That’s a lot to ask of any individual whose daily success might simply be getting up, taking a shower, and making breakfast.