At a writing conference (well, a symposium, actually) about three years ago, I heard someone on a panel talk about ideas. Sadly, I cannot remember who it was. Someone in the audience raised their hand and asked if this author kept a notebook of all his great ideas. The man said he didn't write down any of his ideas. He figured if it was a good idea, it'd stick around. If it didn't stay with him long enough to use it, then it wasn't an idea worth using in the first place. I found his answer completely fascinating. What a great way to weed out the bad ideas, and to discover what the really great ideas are!
Yeah. It took me a couple of years to realize that, fabulous concept or not, it's just not how I work.
Writing is a lot of problem solving. A million little problems present themselves in every manuscript, and your job as a writer is to find the best way to solve them. Some are huge enough that they affect the direction the entire plot is headed. Others are small and only affect a single scene. All of them have to be solved, and chances are you have a dozen of these little issues bouncing around your head at any given time, hoping for their chance to be solved.
Sometimes I'll be sitting in the car, waiting for my daughter's art class to end, and I'll figure out the perfect solution to one of the things bouncing around in my head. The solution that makes everything right. That missing puzzle piece. And then she'll hop in the car and we'll start chatting art, and the idea slowly slips away while I'm not looking until later that night when I think, "Now what was that perfect solution again?"
Does that mean it was a bad idea? No. It means I was forgetful and easily distracted and darn it, by now I should know better than to turn my attention away from it before it's either inked forever in my brain or inked forever on paper! Because for me, the really good ideas like to wander down those brain hallways that rarely get used, then they tend to get lost.
So what about you? Do you know when something is a really good idea because it tends to stick, or do you have to write good ideas down if you want to keep them?