Write it down!
Did you ever wonder how many incipient tunes or partial ones ran through the mind of George Gershwin before his untimely death? Or how many clever subplots and strange characters—in bits and pieces—roamed through William Shakespeare's brain while he was busy writing great dramas and poetry. And those fleeting thoughts never saw the light of day.
Maybe you thought of a great way to improve your golf swing but just haven't had time to work on it. And may never have the time.
Perhaps more important, you might have thought of a new treatment for an interesting disease, or a better way to comfort an ailing patient, or … or … and then never remembered it again or didn't have to time to follow through.
How many great thoughts have been lost because we forget them or because we die before doing anything about them—ideas and thoughts that might have had potential to develop into something worthwhile when expanded. I'm not talking about the "creative" people (even they lose many ideas)— but the you's and me's of the world. We all have fleeting thoughts, bits and ideas (that we plan to work on later), possible solutions to personal problems or professional ones. And they get lost! Is there some way to communicate these bits and pieces, either to ourselves or to others, even posthumously?
That brings us to the theme of this column. My advice (for whatever free advice is worth) is WRITE IT DOWN!
Some of us already are habitual list makers—the grocery list, bills to pay, telephone calls to make. Most of us need reminders from time to time. But these are mostly complete thoughts—you know, "Pick up antifreeze." But the fragments are the ones that get lost: Maybe vitamin E will help, maybe I could do a case report on Mrs Jones, maybe … maybe …
If we wrote down that idea for a new medication, we could be reminded about it later and complete the task, or if there is an untimely accident, our successors might follow our inchoate ideas through—and maybe with success. What a heritage!
If George had written down every chord or musical phrase that went through his head, maybe Ira would have finished the compositions someday and the world would have even greater music. If every scientist—that includes physicians—did the same, maybe innovations would be far ahead of where they are today.
I must confess that I have not become addicted to the WRITE IT DOWN idea yet, but I am a list maker. I am not a paragon, even though in writing these columns every month, I do manage to jot down (as a reminder) topics or "couple of words" ideas when they occur. I keep them around and ultimately use or discard them. This very column fits that pattern. The idea for it came while I was on vacation. On my list, I scribbled WRITE IT DOWN. That was a couple of months ago; now that I've come back to it, here's that column.
So, WRITE IT DOWN—and don't forget to come back to it.