Admitting my wasteful ways, I resolve not to let further opportunities slip into the abyss. 

I have no lightbulb experiences, only lightbulb moments. What I mean is there aren’t things that happened that I can point back to and say “When this happened was when I realized that.” No, my lightbulbs are epiphanies that come to me in the shower, in traffic, during meetings or sermons. That’s why I tend to have some of the same “Eureka!” revelations over and over. You’d think I would take them to heart or do something with or about them after four or five times but alas, not so much.

Stephen King once said that he never wrote any ideas down, never kept the tried and true writer’s journal. No, his philosophy was that good ideas, really good ideas, stick around. Unfortunately that’s a level of trust in my mind that I’m not sure I possess. Still, I understand where he’s coming from.

The folder on my computer labeled “story ideas” is full, bulging really, with strangely titled one-offs with anything from a single sentence or idea to a few paragraphs. They’re the product of some brain wave that broke onto the shore in my melon probably at some inopportune time and I wrote it down. Now, some of them mean little if anything but I’ve written them down and like the fedora I bought on vacation in New Mexico, can’t bring myself to get rid of. Still others, like the impetus for what you’re reading here, re-grow wings and take off.

I think as a rule the lightbulb experience serves us better than the moment, at least it’s been true in my life. My spouse would agree. After 28 years of marriage she’s begun to point out when I espouse to her my latest conclusion about life, writing, careers or relationships: The comment, and I’m paraphrasing or softening here is usually: “You’ve realized that before.” I’m probably reading more into that comment than I should (he said hopefully) but she might be implying, “Learn that already! And furthermore, live that way for crying out loud!” See, it’s the putting in practice all the “A-Ha!” moments where I fall down. It’s like the Pythagorean Theorem.

I learned the Pythagorean Theorem in Marv Shafer’s geometry class. It had something to do with lengths of sides and a hypotenuse, which is still a name I can’t believe some celebrity hasn’t given their baby, I mean so much more interesting than “Apple” but I digress. I learned it when I was in Marv’s class as a sophomore and if my memory is correct I used it with some skill and mastery. But I haven’t used it since and I couldn’t tell you how it goes now. It’s a shame and to my detriment that my ideas, my brainstorms, get handled the same way.

Too often they come and I mull them over and apply all my big-boy logic and decide they’re valid only to take zero action to carry them out. Like an oddly-titled word document their impact is never realized and the good they might do me personally, even the good they might do for the people around me, dissipates into the vapor from whence it came. See, I’m convicted of the notion that if we don’t act, if we don’t do something with our ideas or our good intentions they’re really just a waste of our brain waves. And at 52 I see an increasing scarcity of those, I can tell you. Could that be a good thing?

It would be nice to think that way; that the decreasing number of these ideas is some sort of a subconscious winnowing of what my mind has to offer. That somehow I’m paring down my own thoughts and blowing out the chaff is a hopeful idea. Still, the nagging thought is that my grey matter, like my 50+ muscle tone is just withering away. Frankly, it’s a little frightening.

Some old ad campaign had the slogan, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste” upon which some comedy writers of course creatively feasted making the line, “A mind is a terrible thing (long pause, after which the deliverer of the line would blurt out) to waste!” The potential wasting away of my mind isn’t really so scary a proposition as the idea that in my younger years I had more and more worthwhile ideas that are forever gone. Whether my ideas these days are better or worse I’m committed to one thing, that they not be wasted.

So, it will be my endeavor to explore, enact and experience these things and bring them to their conclusion. Believe me I don’t expect them all to be diamonds. In fact some, (just ask my spouse) won’t probably deserve the time of day. Still, it is in the doing and the miss-steps and the action where I’m convinced, we learn.

I’m not too old to do that. This old dog might not be able to learn any new tricks but there’s nothing that says things can’t improve. At least I’ll clean up my hard drive in the process; the one on my laptop and the one on top of my shoulders.

Ever have a great idea or one you thought would be awesome to explore and you didn’t do it? Why not? What’s stopping you now from at least giving it a try? I’d like to hear your stories about the ones that didn’t get away.


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