Discover more from Poiema
Bright Ideas (and where to find them)
The second most important thing in writing is saying something well. The most important thing is having something to say. But this is not as obvious as it may seem. After all, people are saying more and more about less and less all the time. Like the poor fella one of my professor’s once scolded, “Derek, shut up! The only way you could say less is if you were to talk more.” So all writing worth reading has to begin with an idea worth bothering other people with. But where do those come from?
That is a question you are likely to hear at any event in which a writer is interviewed? “Where do you get your ideas?” Folks want to know how the sausage is made. It is becoming a question with which I am accosted with greater frequency. My normal approach is to just say that I get all of my ideas in Toledo and move on to the next talking point, but for some reason this usually fails to satisfy my interrogators.
The truth is that I don’t know (and neither does anyone else), and it’s not the kind of thing a healthy mind should dwell on. One should just be in the business of thinking thoughts rather than turning one’s melon into mush worrying over how thoughts are thunk. Epistemologists have made this a cottage industry since around about the time of Descartes. Today he is revered as something of a genius simply because he believed himself to exist, “I think, therefore, I am.” That he was wasn’t his most pressing problem, though. The man was in the habit of shutting himself up in an oven, so it is quite probable that he thought himself to be a baguette. What I am saying is that if all of your cogitation leaves you little better off than a pone of cornbread, then you can probably dispense with the high-browed philosophical musings. Better just to say that you get your ideas in Toledo.
The last thing I want to be smart about is where my ideas come from. People didn’t ask Babe Ruth where his home runs came from, they were just there when he needed them. Sometimes. I think it is better to simply try to be the kind of person to whom ideas come. Unbidden. Like Jehovah’s Witnesses.
This is as easy as walking around with your eyes open. Which, it turns out, is less perilous than doing so with them closed. In addition to the safety benefits, this also makes you approachable to even the most timid of ideas. If you spend enough time looking, from time to time, you will see something.
In time, you will start picking up ideas everywhere. After years of making myself susceptible to them, I now get ideas the way that kids in kindergarten get colds–often and from everybody. And I have yet to spend a single night rolled up like a biscuit in the oven.
But I suppose if you are desperate for ideas and don’t have time to behold the world in a grain of sand, you can always book a flight to Toledo.
Last week, the transmission went out on my truck. This means I am currently without my vehicle. It costs just over $2,500 to replace it. Frankly, I don’t have the funds. Friends have told me that I shouldn’t let pride prevent me from letting you know when there is a real need. So there it is. If you value my work and would like to help with this expense by way of a donation, please feel free to do so.