An idea doesn’t care where you are, what you’re doing, who you’re with, or what you’re working on. For a writer, ideas can come from anywhere and hit you with any degree of urgency. Personally, the majority of my “OMG I MUST WRITE THIS NOW!” ideas come to me when I’m working on another project; a project with the same, perhaps greater, sense of importance and drive. This seems to be a fairly normal, even expected occurrence. When your brain is bingeing on creativity, one or a dozen crumbs might not necessarily fit what you’re working on and become projects of their own. What you as the author must do is prioritize and record.
Since ideas are crafty little buggers, nine out of ten times they’ll strike when you’re as far from your “writing space” as possible, and when you’re necessarily thinking about the stories you already have in the works. The most annoying occurrences are when you’re driving, in the shower, working out, walking your dog, about to fall asleep, or busy at your “day job.” I’ve lost numerous ideas, be it for stories or even scenes on a current WIP, while unable to record my momentary brilliance on anything concrete. Since the typical human mind is faulty at best when it comes to standard memory, a distorted, watered down, bastardized version of your idea might be the only thing salvageable if it’s not immediately preserved, and that’s only if you’re lucky enough to remember the good parts.
So what do you do? What CAN we do? Ideas are flying left and right with no sense of time or reliability. Thankfully, modern technology has made it slightly more manageable when your brain won’t cut you a break.
I suggest audio recording devices: tape recorders, most obviously, but when push comes to shove, I have been known to whip out my cell phone and blabber on for later use. This happened to me once while trekking across campus; I was working on what became one of my now published works and had a stroke of brilliance while trying to navigate from class to my car. I knew I’d forget the juicy bits before getting home, so I tore out my phone and sputtered off as rapidly as possible. Yes, I received several strange looks, but I didn’t care. The idea was preserved, and my hurried recording came in very handy a few days later when I got to the scene in question.
Likewise, I always ensure I go to sleep with a pad of paper beside the bed. Moments of literary brilliance are notorious for coming either right as you’re falling asleep or even in dream-form. While not as reliable as audio recording, I have managed to save half a dozen ideas by relying on the old standard pen and paper.
However you do it, ensure you have a plan in motion. Otherwise, as I’m sure most of you have experienced, your ideas will slip away, and you’ll spend a frustrating amount of time trying to conjure them back. This might work if you’re lucky, but you’re better off playing it safe.