Thursday, January 14, 2010

Catching Fireflies

Write down the thoughts of the moment. Those that come unsought for are commonly the most valuable. ~Francis Bacon

Sir Francis Bacon is not of our generation, or even our parents or grandparents. Born in the 16th century, he bcame a celebrated statesman, essayist and philosopher. His quote above still rings of truth in the 21st century we live in.

It reminded me of catching fireflies with my cousin as a child. When dusk fell on summer nights, round and round the yard we'd go, empty mayonnaise or peanut butter jar in hand. We watched for the twinkling light of the firefly and then pounced. If we were lucky enough to catch one, into the jar it went. The hole-poked lid holding the tiny firefly captive. Once we had several of the little critters in the jar, we sat on the porch steps and watched the lights in the jar as they turned on and off. A fascinating sight to both of us. Before we were called inside for the night, we opened the jars and watched the tiny insects fly into the darkness.

Thoughts for a writer are much like the fireflies. We have to catch them while we can. When a thought arrives, write it down somewhere. Quickly! If you don't, you run the risk of losing the thought completely. Try to think of it two days later when you're ready to write about it, and maybe only a portion will come back to you. Or worse--none at all.

And as Sir Francis Bacon said, it's those thoughts that come to us unsought for that become the true treasure. We can sit and think and think and never come up with the kind of thought that floats through our minds as we walk the countryside or watch a sports event or gather around a dining table with family.

Catch the thought in your mental firefly jar, write it down, and let it out the next time you are ready to write.

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