Saturday, April 17, 2010

Ten Thousand Fireflies Elude Me

My pen was poised, but nothing came out. I stared at the tip, willing something to come. It did not.

Why do I feel most creative at times when I don’t have a pen in hand? While in the shower, driving on the 405, or trying on dresses at TJ Maxx, the ideas flow freely. A short film about a man realizing his wife is having an affair with one of her students. I came up with that one while sitting in the Del Taco drive-thru.

Yet when it’s time for me to sit and write, I often struggle. I look at the single sentence I’d scribbled into the ideas notebook I carry in my bag, and it looks like nonsense. An angel who grants wishes before a person’s death. What was I thinking that would be?

I’ve realized ideas are like fireflies floating in your backyard. Their light is mesmerizing and as you stare, you feel like you’re actually seeing them. You can follow their flight pattern, count how many are gathered, and observe when a new one joins the dance.

But go inside your house and close your eyes and you’ll find that remembering what you saw is almost impossible. The paths of their flight become wispy thin in your mind. Did you actually see them? How many were really there and how many are you making up in your head?

I have this theory that prolific writers – the ones who have more ideas than they know what to do with, in their words – these writers are that way because they’ve learned how to catch these fireflies. They capture them in clear glass jars so they can bring them inside and create on command.

But my inspiration still escapes me if I’m not careful. Thoughts come and go and when I sit down and close my eyes, I strain to remember the light from those fireflies. And I don’t always remember.

I need to get a clear glass jar for myself and learn how to use it well.


  1. Ideas are indeed like fireflies, there are none of them in Southern California.

    I did manage to map out half of a TV spec while washing the dishes last night. It kept me from having to focus on washing the dishes. Ideas are nice like that.

  2. Eitan, washing dishes is a fantastic method for creative inspiration! For the other half of that TV spec, try refilling salt shakers or taking out the recycling. ;)