And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt. -- Sylia Plath
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What to Do When Great Ideas Strike at Bad Times (The Nopen Paradox, Part 1)

(Part 2)

The brain giveth and the brain taketh away.

We receive amazing ideas at the most inopportune times and then forget them before we have a chance to write them down.

It happens every day, but what if you could capture all of those amazing ideas?

The Nopen Paradox

You're driving to work and you get a brilliant idea. It's perfect. Why hadn't you thought of it sooner? It's so obvious.

You want to remember this, so you remind yourself to write it down when you get to work.

A few minutes later you arrive at work and damned if you haven't forgotten your idea.

This is the Nopen Paradox. Your best ideas always arrive when you are least able to write them down.

Where Ideas Strike

I don't have to ask if this has ever happened to you because I know it has.

And, of course, it's not just when you're driving to work. It happens any time you have no way to write down or record your idea.

  1. driving to work (already mentioned)
  2. exercising, without pen and paper
  3. on the toilet, paper but no pen
  4. in the shower, smart phone isn't waterproof
  5. in bed, too lazy to get up
  6. in bed, the covers just warmed up
  7. in a hot air balloon, can't release your hands from the rail
  8. on horseback, writing isn't legible
  9. in the garden, too many dirt smudges
  10. cooking, greasy hands covered in raw meat and flour ...

The list goes on.

I'm sure you've lost some of your own ideas in inconvenient places. (Feel free to share below.)

The High Cost of The Nopen Paradox

I shudder to think of everything The Nopen Paradox has stolen from us. I'm sure someone had a cure for cancer. And someone else, I'm quite certain, had found a limitless clean energy source. Oh, then there was that epic song that was totally better than the Macarena. And, of course, your brilliant novel idea. Man, it was good. So much better than The DaVinci Code

...and you forgot it.

Solution 1: Ensure You Can Always Record Your Ideas (No Matter What)

I have two types of solutions for you to this vexing dilemma that has cost the human race so dearly. I will discuss the first solution here in Part 1.

The obvious solution to this problem is to make sure you always have a way to record your idea no matter where you are or what you are doing.

Carry a pen and paper everywhere

Some people suggest carrying a small notepad and pen. I've tried this. It works well for some situations, but honestly, doesn't work well when driving, in a hot air balloon or gardening.

And besides, I look like a dork with a notebook in my pocket.

Place a pen and paper everywhere you go

Another suggestion is to place many small notebooks and pens at all the various places you may find yourself. This works well for ideas that come in bed. Just reach out to your nightstand and jot down your idea. On the toilet? No problem. In the shower? Write it down on the back of the toilet tank. Still, this does not work well when driving, in a hot air balloon or gardening.

Use your smart phone

Obviously, your smart phone can be useful in many situations, too, since you tend to take it with you everywhere. The smart phone is a good solution when hiking, at your friends house or even at the store. However, since I wasn't born after the Clinton administration, I don't have texting thumbs in my DNA so typing into today's smart phones is too slow for me.

Use your smart phone as a voice recorder

An alternative to typing into your smart phone, is using it as a voice recorder. This is nice in principle, but smart phones can still be difficult to navigate especially while driving. Setting up a hotkey for voice recording might help.

Dedicated, hands free, voice activated recorder

But what I would really like is a dedicated, intelligent voice recorder that is responsive, lightweight and voice activated. This could be the best possible solution for the most Nopen situations.

Think Star Trek when Captain Picard talks to the ship. He starts by saying, "Computer!" Then he follows with his command. I can imagine a simple, "Recorder!" followed by your thought or idea.

Do you happen to find yourself in a hot air balloon? "Recorder! Have my main character put the gun in the bank vault."

In the garden? "Recorder! Recipe book of dishes containing only radishes and beets." Alright, not every idea is going to be great, but at least you've captured it.

I haven't seen a voice recorder that is this easy to use which I would feel comfortable recommending, but if one exists please let me know. I'd like to try it.

These solutions may work for you, but I have an even better one in The Nopen Paradox—Part 2.

Stay tuned.