Creative Writing Tip: Beware of Scumbag Brain and Write your Ideas Down

A great metaphorical image for SCUMBAG BRAIN

A great metaphorical image for SCUMBAG BRAIN

The best ideas always hit us when we’re halfway to falling asleep, don’t you agree? At least, that seems to happen to me. By now, you would think I’d learn to get my butt out of bed and write the golden stuff down before I forget it.

Well, I’m too lazy to do that most of the time. Yesterday, the laziness bit me. It bit me good. For only about the hundredth time.

Yesterday night, as I was trying to fall asleep, I was trying to think of a topic for a blog post. I ended up getting two great ones!

  • The first I hope to write about tomorrow. I think a post I recently read somewhere might have inspired the thought: how editing for content (cohesion) is different than editing for flow. Cohesion and flow are different things and you should tackle cohesion first. That’ll be tomorrow’s post.
  • The second idea was unrelated, and I think I remember liking it more than the first one. Unfortunately, I have no idea what it is. Not the slightest clue.

I almost got out of bed to grab a pen. But I was tired–I’m always tired these days–and I told myself, “I can remember this. They’re two ideas. Just two.”

I even ran them through my head a few times, really concentrating on them and going through them so that they would stick. Well, they didn’t.

ACT NOW! Scumbag brain’s offers for a limited time only

At least, I guess, I got thisΒ post out of the experience, so I did end up with two total! Just not the two I would have preferred.

This, then, is a friendly reminder about your frenemy, scumbag brain. (Yeah, there’s a meme about scumbag brain, this kind of betrayal is so common.)

Scumbag brain will frequently give you creative, magnificent inspiration for your writing at inopportune moments. This includes:

  • Ideas for blog posts
  • Amazing concepts you can develop into a future short story or novel
  • A fully formed image of a great character
  • Solutions to blocks in your writing
  • Ideas for a plot twist
  • Unexpected revelations about your characters (which often lead to a solution to a block or an idea for a plot twist)

Scumbag brain is a lot like an infomercial announcer. (Rest in peace, Billy Mays). His offers are available for a limited time only, except they’re of high quality and they’re “products” I actually need. They’re free, in every respect. No strings attached. And yet I pass on them. Why?

Because I’m too lazy to jump out of bed? UGH!


Well, next time I’ll get up and walk over to the desk. Seriously, it’s only just across the room. What’s so difficult about that?

Well, okay, maybe it’s not really that I’m lazy. Lazy is me realizing I could have written this post as a fable with a bit of humor attached, contemplating rewriting it that way, and deciding no. It’s already mostly written, and I’m not putting more time into it.

You see, not writing my ideas down isn’t entirely laziness. It’s more that I trust scumbag brain not to withdraw the offer he put on the table.. I trust it’ll still be around in the morning.

I trust scumbag brain because I generally have a really good memory. Really, really good. I know so much useless trivia about everything….

But that’s the point: I remember useless stuff. I guess I should remind myself that I remember the useless stuff, and that’s part of scumbag brain being a scumbag.

He helps me remember useless facts and ideas so that I convince myself I’ll remember the good ones when the good ones come along.

You see, he wouldn’t be a scumbag just for taking away the offer. He announces, more or less, that the offer’s limited time only. No, he’s a scumbag because he gives a *wink wink* “I won’t really take it away “*nudge nudge* that makes me doubt he’ll withdraw the goods.


Anyway, that’s your PSA for the day. Don’t trust scumbag brain. Write your ideas down.

So, how has scumbag brain gotten you recently? What are the tricks that get you? Have you learned the hard way to get out of bed and reach for the notepad?

If you enjoyed this post, you might enjoy the posts in the category “Funny Lists.” Also, I invite you to sign up to follow my blog by email at the top right of the screen, if you don’t want to miss out on future ranting πŸ™‚


49 responses to “Creative Writing Tip: Beware of Scumbag Brain and Write your Ideas Down

  1. I’ve yet to master any tricks. I tried sleeping with a notebook and pen under my pillow, but the pen blew up. Right now, I stir myself enough to repeat the idea in my head for 5 minutes and pray it sticks. It’s a 50/50 split on that working.

    This probably happens to me every night.

  2. This happens to me all. the. time. I always think, ‘this is so brilliant I couldn’t possibly forget it’. Then even half an hour later I’m racking my brain and retracing my steps, trying desperately to figure it out!!

  3. I have the same problem – except my scumbag brain forgets EVERYTHING! My solution for those middle of the night thoughts: I keep my iphone next to my bed and jot things down either in notes or a draft text/email. That way i can do it without having to get up or disturb my husband switching on the light. The entertaining moment comes when not only had I forgotten the thought, I’d forgotten writing it down so the next day, I find a random collection of words describing a dream. Not always helpful but it can be funny.

  4. Actually it’s getting better. I don’t know exactly what I’m doing different, unfortunately. One thing might be, that my brain comes up with it’s ingenious ideas at different times of the day. Mostly when waking up, commuting or doing mindless stuff, so there is not a whole night, where my brain is mixed up. So I have the possibility to shortly after write the ideas down and do remember them at a 90% rate.

    Maybe it has to do with a changed schedule. I’m getting up really early (5:30) since a few month and I’m so tired in the evening that I fall asleep before any serious thought can emerge.

    • that sounds like a great success rate, Dirk! wish I had that…. and I wish I could fall asleep right away, oh my gosh! I take forever. Letting my brain wander probably doesn’t help me fall asleep, but what else am I going to do besides think when I’m trying to sleep? haha! πŸ™‚

      I too get lots of great ideas while doing mindless tasks, such as walking around the neighborhood or cleaning dishes.

  5. What did we do before smartphones? I keep mine by my bed charging overnight, and there’s plenty of note taking apps out there, so this works great for me. My brain is just way too unreliable.

    • I have no idea what people did before technology! And when I think of the days before electicity…. oh good heavens!!!

      smart phones are the best. i don’t have one but I do have an iPod touch. need to see about a note taking app for it!

  6. Scumbag brain used to get me All. The. Time. I have defeated my frenemy by keeping a small notebook and pencil right on the table next to the bed. Scumbag gives me an offer? Well, then, it’s a simple matter of just reaching over, grabbing that pencil and … zzzzzzzz

    • that is so logical! perfect!!! see, my problem is I have no common sense for simple stuff like that. i have lots of book smarts but often a simple solution to a simple problem like that eludes me.

  7. A lot of times I have fantastic ideas for stories based on my dreams. You know dreams, though. If I don’t write them down right away, by the time I’ve finished breakfast they’re gone.

  8. I keep a notebook by my bed. But sometimes, I don’t feel like turning on the light and fumbling for a pen. I’m with you, Victoria. If the idea is that good, it will come back in the morning after I’ve had a cup of coffee.

  9. Ideas are so fleeting! Scumbag brain indeed. I highly recommend Evernote, especially if you ever pick up a smartphone. It’s generally free, but you can pay a small monthly fee for premium features. One of the best tools I’ve invested in, without a doubt.

    I found that I prefer it to a real notebook because of a couple reasons:

    1.) I more often have my phone or a computer near me than a physical notebook.
    2.) Everything is synced up, no matter where you run it. So I can make notes on my laptop at work and continue them when I get home, or even in the car (not driving of course!).
    3.) You can clip and save media items (websites, videos, PDFs, etc.)
    4.) My handwriting is atrocious.

    • wow, thanks a ton for the recommendation, Philip! Maybe I can get the app on my iPod touch. I generally can get any iPhone app there.

      • Yup, that should work just fine! And I just realized my ‘couple’ of reasons turned into four. πŸ™‚

        • No worries πŸ™‚ I’ve noticed most people don’t even associate “a couple of” with 2 anymore. They use it as a synonym for “a few.” I’ve mentioned “a couple of” something or other before and my roommate asked me to clarify.

    • I was also going to recommend Evernote! I started carrying a small moleskin notebook, but I don’t always have the purse it’s in—plus, I often take photos of the things I’ve handwritten in there and then they’re saved on my phone, too! I always come up with great ideas while in the shower and the inevitably forget them before my damp little fingers are dry enough to write them down. I remembered a scene I thought up right as I got in bed and pulled out my phone to jot it down in Evernote!

  10. Pingback: Creative Writing Tip: Not all Editing is the Same. Save Flow Edits for Last. | Creative Writing with the Crimson League

  11. Hilarious! You made me laugh! So true! Happens to me too! But when I wake up, I have to compose myself before remembering what the idea was and then when I write it down, my mind goes blank all of a sudden. Then, when I find out what the idea of a story was, I keep going until I stop and then I think… what happens next? I have a notepad and a computer not too far from the bed yet I drag my bottom out of bed and then forget. If it’s a great idea, I run for it and write away! Maybe because we are still waking up (in addition to laziness), we don’t do a thing. When I do this, I hit myself for not writing an idea sooner.

    • I hear ya!!!! I’ve never had the energy to write late at night, so I admire those who can jump out of bed and get writing. That’s awesome!!! I’m glad the post made you laugh!

  12. Great post. It’s funny because as I was walking to work I got 2 ideas and then later at lunch I sat there trying to remember them. Luckily I did. But like you, it was 50/50 at first. I carry a notepad and why I waited, I don’t know.

    We forget but need to be reminded. Carry a notepad, use whatever device works for you but get it down! Arrrggg!!!!

    • So true!!! I should carry a notepad around with me more when I go out. I don’t always and it could definitely come back to bite me. That’s a great tip and a needed reminder. Thanks!

      • I have a notepad in every purse πŸ˜› and I’ve been known to jot down notes on receipts too, anything that is paper.

        I really like to write down what people say – like at lunch – they are so flattered. And I always ask, “Do you mind if I use that?”

      • Writing down what people say is a great idea! I’m going to have to start trying that out myself. πŸ˜‰

  13. Yes, the sleep-to-wake and wake-to-sleep times seem to be when creativity hits hardest. What you wrote hit this nail on the head with quite a hammer blow. Thanks for putting it into words. Have you ever kept a piece of paper and a pencil by your bed to capture that fantastic thought so you wouldn’t forget it by morning? I did that and couldn’t read my writing the next day. Another time, I wrote over the same line.

    • oh my gosh, I haven’t kept a pen and paper, but I can totally imagine having the outcomes you describe. How crazy!!! I’m so sorry you couldn’t read the writing! Hope you deciphered it eventually!!! I hate letting great ideas go to waste.

      It’s good to know we’re not alone in these troubles, right? If nothing else, there’s that πŸ™‚ I’m so glad you stopped by!

  14. I absolutely freak out if I don’t have my phone, Kindle, or at least a pad of paper near me at all times — THOSE are the times I’ll inevitably get the Best Idea Ever, and it’s usually gone by the time I find something to record it with. (Evernote for the win!)

  15. Love this post! I’m also a writer and this happens to me so often! Sadly I have a loft bed so I rely on my ability to bring a notepad up there… Doesn’t usually work. Anyway, great post; was beautifully written and oh so easy to relate to!

  16. Scumbag brain? I’m used to a more poetic expression but that works too. Yes, writing down ideas is SOMETIMES good.

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