In the last decade I seem to have developed the ability to know when I’m about to see faces everywhere in abstract things like clouds, wood grain, leafy trees, a pile of clothes draped over a chair across the room. It’s called Pareidolia. So I guess my ability to feel it coming on should be called Prepareidolia.

In the same way, sometimes I can feel a big writing surge coming on. I’m used to writing even if I don’t especially feel like it, but it’s much more fun when I feel inspired. Let’s call the ability to feel a writing surge coming on Prescribolia.

When I was in college, getting my teaching credential, I had two close friends I made in the program. Whenever I confided in them that I felt guilty about something, they were quick to tell me to relax and not sweat it. “I was too tired to clean my apartment this weekend,” I might say. “Don’t worry; a messy house is a sign of a creative mind,” they would counter. But one day I told them what was making me feel guilty and they just stared at me for a moment. They knew I had already written several unpublished novels and that writing wasn’t just a hobby for me. I told them, “Last night I felt inspired to write, but I didn’t.” “Ooo,” said one friend, her voice filled with doom. “That’s bad,” said my other friend, his expression deeply sympathetic. Because ignoring inspiration is a sin.

Therefore we should always be prepared to grasp the opportunity. When Prescribohlia arrives, fly into action. Warm up the laptop, cancel your plans for a pedicure, ask your roommate to do the grocery shopping this time. Get your tea on the cup warmer. Choose the perfect music.

But maybe you don’t have any warning—perhaps prescribohlia eludes you. It’s okay. You can still catch those inspired words by always being prepared.

Have something to write on in every room. And in your purse. And your car. And your coat pocket.

Put your emergency writing paper out of the reach of the kids and dogs. And make sure your spouse and housekeeper know that this particular tablet of paper hidden on top of the cook books is supposed to be there.

If, like me, you’re the mom of a kindergartener, always have a bag of cheap but interesting toys the kid has never seen before so on long weekends you can pull one out and provide yourself with at least twenty minutes of note scribbling time to yourself. (Even if you have to do it standing at the kitchen counter, it still works.)

There’s nothing I hate (exaggeration) more than saying to myself, “What was that great idea I had for a dialogue exchange to insert in my next chapter?” “The what now?” says my brain. “You know, the bit we thought of standing in line at the post office.” To which my brain answers, “Sorry, man. I got nothing.”

Had I been prepared, I could have rummaged through my purse and found that little notepad I got in my Christmas stocking, in which I wrote down my idea, and in seconds reacquainted myself with the dialogue I’d sketched out that afternoon. Huzzah! And it was really good, too. And if I had experienced Prescribolia, I would have put off the p.o. until the next day and actually written the whole scene.

TIP: I’ve sent myself writing notes as emails using my iPhone when my pen ran out of ink or I ran out of pages in my little Christmas tablet.

WARNING: Driving and emailing yourself writing notes do not mix. Pull over!

Which gives me a great idea! You know how near the airport there’s a sign that says
“Cell Phone Waiting Area” and along the I-5 there are “Truck Stops”? Maybe they should rename them “Cell Phone Writing Area” and “Truck and Writing Stop, one mile.” It’s a safety issue. I’m just saying.

TIP RETRACTION: Apparently you can get something called SIRI and safely send yourself messages about your writing as you drive, hands free. That’s even better. Do that.

Oooh, I have another great idea! Having a surge of great ideas could be called Eurekolia and knowing it’s coming could be called Pre-eurekolia. (Sorry, I’m overcome by a surge of nonsensolia.)

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