Coleridge Moments

I hate it when I have a Coleridge Moment. Oh, you want to know what I’m alluding to…

Well, Samuel Coleridge is famous for writing the poem Xanadu, but there are only 3 verses. Why? Coleridge was an opium smoker, and he awoke from an opium dream with 12 complete verses ready to go. He sat down to write them but was interrupted by a knock on the door by somebody who had come to hassle him about some money owed. When he finally got the guy to leave, Xanadu had left too. And that’s why we only have 3 verses.

Last night I had a dream. I dreamed an entire short story, very clever stuff too, all based around a single active verb… but for the life of me, I can’t remember the verb or the story. It’s driving me nuts.

When I was a nature photographer, I learned a hard lesson. I was sleeping in my Blazer at the entrance to the National Bison Range in Moese, Montana and was awakened in the night by the howl of coyotes. When I opened the tailgate to have a look around, the Northern Lights were undulating above me in curtains of emerald green. It was exquisite. I remember saying to myself, “Get up and photograph this.” I didn’t. I went back to sleep and have never seen the lights again in my lifetime.

The lesson? “Don’t ignore a one-time event. Capture it while it’s in front of you or lose it forever.”

It’s the same thing with these nighttime story ideas. Don’t just stay in bed enjoying the story; get up and write it down or lose it forever. I know this. You probably know this too. But being a human (!), I lost this great story idea. I can’t recall a bit of it, not even the verb it centered around.

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