Dear Mr. Blue,

How do I put it on paper? In my head, it's great, but in the process of getting to the notebook or the computer screen or the napkin, I lose it. The stuff that's up there comes and goes in seconds. How do I make it stay?

At a Loss

Dear At a Loss,

What is in your head is great, far better than anything you can put on paper, and you can't put it down on paper because it would be flawed. You prefer greatness in your own mind to the ordinary humanity of the page. I put this modest advice down on paper because I want you to see it and consider it. In my head, it was like a Chopin étude, but here it is: It doesn't exist until you put it on paper.

From Garrison Keillor's mid-February 1999 column in Salon Magazine.