Wednesday, 4 May 2011

The Idea Shop

"Where do you get your ideas from?": this is a question that pursues me wherever I go.  Indeed, I sometimes suspect it even travels ahead and camps on the street, waiting for me to arrive. Having been asked this so many times, you'd think I'd have a really nifty answer by now, but usually I mumble something unhelpful like, "Dunno really. Stuff... pops up." I mean, it's not like there's this marvellous little idea shop down the road that I can recommend or some yoga position I always do while I'm on the loo. I don't cast spells or perform rituals or play poohsticks in the moonlight clad in nothing but luminous green roller skates (although, in the latter case, maybe I should).

Another problem about responding is the fact that I'm not entirely sure how the question is meant. It might not be a real question at all. People may not expect a real answer. For all I know, it might just be a nicer way of saying, "Lorks-a-lordy, woman, you must be some kind of freak, because your stuff is abnormal." On the other hand, it may mean "C'mon, spit out some secret tips. I know there must be a simple trick with a phonebook and a hatpin or something, cause you're not that clever" or "You, my darling, are an enigma, an E N I G M A, and I fear I shall go stark raving bonkers if I cannot delve into your twisted brain this instant and find out how it works." So I never answer properly. I just look harried, mumble my unhelpful stock response and then emit a desperate gargling cry of "Waiter! More wine!" Today, however, I'm in a gregarious and analytical mood. So today I'm going to try and answer the question to my own satisfaction, at least.

My theory is that ideas operate just like dreams in the sense that every single one of us has them, but some of us don't register them - they just don't surface to the conscious mind. A second category of people do register them but don't remember them for long enough to do something about them. They emerge for a few moments but then tumble back into the depths of the mind where they are locked away forever. Then there is a third category of people who register and remember them, but view them with suspicion, thinking them silly or inappropriate or even a bit unnerving. Let's face it, the subconscious can be pretty flaky at times. It can be better to banish the bizarre random visions it occasionally hurls at us - particularly any that feature vampire penguins or motorcycle slutpigs -  to shudder, shake one's head, focus firmly on the real world and say "More tea, auntie?" instead.

I reckon that I fit into none of the three categories above, and this is why:
From my early childhood, I have always been known as a terrible daydreamer. I could - and can - quite happily sit in a daydream for hours. I do it by accident and I also do it on purpose. I'm one of life's born mental skivers and I do it as often as I can get away with. Waiting is never boring for me. Nor is silence or solitude. (Perhaps this is a dreadful confession to make, but only other people can bore me - people who insist on discussing intricate humdrum affairs and lengthy expert views without considering that they may be disrupting the very pleasant and absorbing daydream about pirates or pixies - or indeed motorcycle slutpigs - which their unwilling listener would otherwise be enjoying.)

Another significant aspect is that I value my daydream worlds just as highly as the outer world. Daydreams are wonderful. They are free and seem so erractic yet there is also some kind of unfathomable system to them, like ocean currents or weather patterns. They merge into one another. Themes recur, stories meander, circle back to their origins, swerve off in new directions. Time passes differently in daydreams. There's a whole multiverse in there and we can access it at any time. Quite honestly, what the fuck could be more amazing and more irresistibly compelling than that? The latest stock exchange news? Oho. I humbly beg to differ.

Now, it is a confirmed fact that it is very much easier for people to remember things that they are genuinely interested in, and my daydreams interest me very much. (Some would say I was obsessed with them.) And this means that I remember them. And because it is while daydreaming that I get my ideas, I remember a reasonable proportion of my ideas, too.

I get the impression that many people are less concerned with their daydreams and other forms of inner loopiness and more interested in what is know as "life" or "the real world" or "the big picture". This sort of thing is seen - and no doubt very rightly - as the desirable and proper attitude to have. "Not having a life" or "not living in the real world" is seen as a major fault. We are continually encouraged to "keep it real", but rarely to "make it fantastical".  All very sound thinking, no doubt, but I'm sure that's why some people don't remember many of their more brilliant creative brainwaves. They are too outwardly focussed and too quick to disown all the oddities that come from within. Now me, I'm not like that. If anything, I'm the other way around. I pounce on my oddities; I exalt and glorify them; it's the real world I'm guilty of pooh-poohing. I can't remember the name of the German foreign minister. The only European government I could comment on with any certainty is the Belgium one (which happens to be non-existent - making it wonderfully easy to remember, and I thoroughly approve of it for this reason). Outwardly, I seem to operate in the real world as well as the next person, but ask me a few simple questions and you'll see that it is but a flimsy facade. And underneath that facade I'm an unashamedly subjective fantasist. I have one eye looking outwards - mainly in order to avoid walking into lampposts or treading in dog poo - and the other looking in.

Now you could say that it was a vain and self-absorbed little world I lived in and that mine was an appallingly selfish and downright reprehensible attitude to nurture, but I'd argue that a) the inner world of a human being can be as expansive, rich and enlightening in its own way as anything you can read about in the newspaper and b) the real world is a vain, self-absorbed sort of a place, too, AND let's not forget that it is the real world which holds such mundane horrors as chirpy telephone salespeople and greengrocers' apostrophes and e-mail wit-forwarding brothers-in-law, workmates who harp on and on about their diets and all those neckless oafs who think it's dead clever to say "cheer up, it might never happen". Bearing all this in mind, I think I can be excused for not wanting to waste my entire life in such a place thank you very much.

Finally, there is one last point that remains: the idea-killer for category three folks - the matter of non-acceptance. Many people remember their ideas but dismiss them, don't think them good enough. All I can say is, whenever I told anyone in advance of an idea I intended to use, they always looked like they secretly thought it was a steaming pile of crap, like it could never work, like I'd clearly lost my touch and my marbles. In other words, every single one of my ideas sounds like total crap at first. The difference is, I just don't believe we should be letting a little thing like conspicuous crapness put us off. After all, let's face it, there aren't all that many instantly brilliant ideas left to be discovered in the world, but there are still loads and loads of slightly iffy ones up for grabs, and if you just make a start on implementing them - because even a dodgy idea is a billion times better than no idea at all - then by the time you've improvised work-arounds for all the daftest, most impractical aspects, changed the original notion beyond recognition, chucked out most of the key elements and ended up somewhere entirely different, you may well be looking at something you find unexpectedly really rather good, actually.


  1. In the Mayfield26 May 2011 at 14:03

    The doubters are dead! Long live day dreamers!
    It is excellent to hear from the shores of your world again.
    One can never be sure when or where you’ll pop from next.
    Like ‘Splat the Rat’ at the church fate, but not much like the rat, more like the splat….
    That didn’t come out very well did it, but I’m sure you get the gist?
    Smashing words as ever.

  2. Well bless my soul, 'tis Mr M! Gosh, this feels like bumping into an old school friend in a sex shop and realising that the last time you saw him was... in another sex shop. I'm so happy to see you. (Oh dear, I think I've just splatted myself.)