This morning, when I opened the blinds in our bedroom, I was startled to see dense fog and icy crystals on the grass. I continued opening the rest of the blinds and went into the living room to read the morning paper. Bad move! I should have written a poem instead. The fog and the heavy dew were perfect subjects for a winter poem. Sometimes story ideas surround us but we are blind to them. In this case, I definitely did not use my writer's eye as I viewed the early morning scene.
Jack London's quote says we sometimes have to go after inspiration with a club. In this case, someone should have used a club on me to awaken me to the great possibility spread out before me. Yes, I could work on the poem now, trying to bring back what I saw but I don't think it would be nearly as good as one that was written at the moment of inspiration.
When inspiration hits, act on it as quickly as you can. Many writers do so. They're the ones who have lots of everyday chores left undone because they answered the call of their craft instead of cleaning fingermarks or doggie nose prints off the sliding glass doors. If you're serious about your writing life, that's quite alright. The fingerprints will be there waiting for you tomorrow but the inspiration may have flown out the window. Like all things, there's a fine line between what is alright and what is overkill so we do need to be wary of that.
It seems to be that when you are busiest, inspiration pops up out of nowhere. This holiday season is a perfect example. So many times during a Christmas concert or seeing a special window display or attending a children's program, I am inspired to write a story or a poem. It's when that notebook we should all keep with us comes in handy. If you can even write the bones during that inspirational moment, it's a big help. Wait until you get home to do it and the magic moment may be gone. The emotion you feel when true inspiration hits fades quickly when time intervenes. Yes, you can write it later but I don't think it will be quite the same unless you have the ability to recreate the scene in your mind with all details involved.
I remember an old movie of long, long ago when a man in a cocktail lounge in New York City wrote the lyrics to a song on a paper napkin. The song became one of the greatest hits (of course!). What if he had waited a day or two to act on his idea? Might have been a more mediocre song that was soon forgotten. The act upon it now message was not lost on me. I don't remember the name of the movie or the person it was about but I do remember that scene vividly.
You may have many instances where inspiration hits you instead of you chasing it with that big club. When it happens, grab it with both hands and start writing. Sometimes, inspiration finds writers, not the other way around.