Thursday, August 8, 2013

On Gestation

Status Update: Sitting on a hill of beans at the moment, trying not to think about the possibility that my trusty sidekick, the coffee machine, is suffering senile dementia. It's been a worthy companion lo these many years, I'd hate to have to replace it.

Important Update: turns out it was a faulty paper filter, which dumped a landfill's worth of grounds into the hopper, gumming up the works but eminently cleanable. Sparky's still got fight in him yet. This last cup of coffee is rather chewy. Black, with the texture of something hoisted from the depths of the Bog Of Eternal Stench. Surprisingly drinkable, although that might be my caffeine addiction talking. I'm the coffee equivalent of that weird uncle you had who'd drink mouthwash in the bathroom when he thought nobody was paying attention.

Next story is fully outlined and gestating in the hell-pits of my lower cerebrum. It's going to be a follow-up to "Down And Out In The Jungle Of Death", with the same characters. I'm having fun with it so far.

I've been thinking about ideas lately. Thinking about thinking, if you will.

A lot of times, I'll get the seed of something and I'll have to sit on it, let it gestate. I'll jot down a note and then I'll go do something else. Organize my collection of severed Boy Scout heads, for example ("Petey on the left, Walter next in line..."). Sometimes the basic idea you get, that first glimmer of something you want to write about is pretty spartan. If you try to rush it, it won't become something awesome. It needs some time to find fertile soil, sprout into the delicate flower that I'm sure all of my ideas turn out to be. Okay, fine, 99% of my ideas are basically epic forty-page haiku collections about dicks, but bear with me for a while.

The thing is, I'm an inveterate procrastinator. My motto has always been don't do today what you can put off in (present moment + 24 hours). If I can find any excuse not to do something in favor of random screwing around, I'll do it, even if that thing is something I enjoy. If there was a big red button sitting on my desk which would give me one hour of complete bliss coupled with superpowers, a billion dollars, sex with every super model on the planet and omniscience...I would put off pressing it. I'd go for a walk. See what's happening on Bookface. Make little dinosaurs out of toothpicks and reenact the best parts of Jurassic Park (hint: the entire movie). I'm awful.

So I feel guilty every time I just let an idea hang out in my subconscious. Because there's some times when you should force an idea. Sometimes you can take the seed out, shake off the dust and then just bang on it until something interesting happens. And there's no telling when that's the best solution. You just have to have at it.

I think three quarters of my favorite writing is from the previous method. Some of my best Eureka moments have been when I put down the basic glimmerings of an idea, then went off and did other things. Took a shower, took a nap, went for a walk. About halfway through, I'll usually have a moment where I laugh and say "wouldn't it be great if..."

But there are also moments when I've had to force through writing difficulty. I've just sat down and had at it, blue-sky style, and then the next day sorted through the wreckage for diamonds. I suppose like all things in life, ideas aren't just one thing. Cats, skinning, file under "methods of".

Still, it's difficult sometimes to tell when I'm sitting on a story because I'm sneaking up on it sideways, waiting for my subconscious to brew something delicious, or I'm just screwing around.

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