Generating ideas

About a month ago I left my editorial job to return to writing, and I knew I was going to do this for a while, so I had a few months to really hyperventilate over my decision. I hadn’t written much in that time and was feeling kinda dead inside as a result, so well before I was unemployed, I set myself the task of writing down 10 ideas every day. They couldn’t be stupid—“write a bestseller” or "make a million dollars" couldn’t count as an idea, much as I wanted it to— but “not stupid” was otherwise broadly defined. 

This was a really valuable exercise and I recommend it. Idea generating is hard work. It tires you out like exercise can tire you out. Just like exercise, it can feel overly difficult and pointless, until you start to see results. 

When you’re churning out ideas you generate all kinds of garbage. Sometimes you're delighted by the useless garbage. You get to look back at your lists from weeks before and you don't have a single clue what you were thinking. Were you falling asleep when you wrote these?

Then you post a few to your blog because what the hell. 

  • “You're Not Terrible: A Story for All My Friends Who Think They're Terrible" 

Well, that's easy. You're not terrible! You're the best, not the worst! Why do you think you're terrible when you're definitely not! Only people who are terrible don't think they're terrible. Wait, did you not previously think you're terrible and now you do because I said this? No way, not you. You're a shimmering being of light. I want to take pictures of you all day.   (Great idea, great story, get this published immediately) 

  • “Alice and Alison—find someone I can emulate, like Julie and Julia!” 

Oh my god, what? Get a hold of yourself, Bradley. Also what Alisons are there in this world? Alison Williams? Alison Brie? Commendable young ladies, but no. Gross. Stop it. Now I'm mad at me. 

  •  “Eulogy for the guy who lived down the street who’s angry about the sun.” 

 I don’t have a clue what this means. I don’t know what it could possibly mean even in my imagination. I’m 99% sure I was dreaming when i wrote this. This is dream language. But then my penmanship is pretty legible. It wasn’t even my last idea of the day. Was I thinking about Buzz Aldrin railing against the moon on 30 Rock and I thought, that’s proven gold, just flip it and make it local? Oh well, here you go: 

We’re here to remember that guy who lived down the street. He was a good man, even though he was super angry about the sun. He was always outside, which is weird, seeing as how the sun made him so angry. Most of us on the block have a fun story about Bill—his name was Bill, obviously, we all know this—standing in the middle of the street, waving his arms around about the sun and its hidden agenda. “But it’s cloudy out today, Bill!” we’d say, and he’d reply, “But it’s there, damn your hide! Don’t you understand? It’s not leaving us alone, it’s just hiding! Continuing its secret work!” And we'd tell him, "Bill, we need the sun for warmth and energy!" And that's when he'd start karate chopping the air. He was a colorful guy and wore a real big hat. We’ll miss his yelling—his sunrise yelling least of all. 

Rest in peace, idea. 

  • Stories about weird street detritus

One of my neighbors left, on the curb, the following tableau: a Plan B box leaning against an empty bottle of Old Fitzgerald bourbon and a pair of denim cutoffs. I’ve been trying to find a way to mention this online ever since. God that felt good.