Friday, January 16, 2009

"Milestone"

I looked it up. It seemed close, so I checked to find out

Sure enough, today marks the one-year anniversary of my having started this blog. Isn’t that something? Echoing the great Jackie Mason (to be read in a thick and belligerent Jewish accent):

I’d like to thank myself, for writing all these wonderful stories.

Speaking as my more humble self, I’d like to thank you for showing up and giving me somebody to talk to. Without you, motivating me to do this, I’m a guy tanning on my porch going, “This is nice. But is it really a life?”

Two hundred and forty-seven posts. On lots of different subjects. All of them meaningful. If only to the writer.

I’d like to tell you I have great things planned for Year Two. I have nothing planned for Year Two. I can’t promise you Year Two will be better than Year One. Who knows? It may be worse. I may already have told you my best stories.

On the other hand, a year’s worth of blogging has sharpened my abilities. So even if the new stories aren’t as scintillating as last year’s, there’s good chance they’ll be better written.

Forgive my, what other people call pessimism and I call being realistic. It’s just my nature. I have no certainty about the things I have yet to do. A similar attitude colored my network “pitch” meetings?

NETWORK EXECUTIVE: Is this show going to be a hit?

EARL: (more likely Earl’s demeanor and body language) How the hell should I know?

It’s not that I have no ideas for future postings. I do. At least, a few. When something comes to me, I write it down on the nearest scrap of paper, often the back of a receipt in a restaurant, where I’m supposed to be listening to my dining companions, but instead, I’m distracted by an idea for my blog.

I later toss these scribbled-on scraps onto an unsorted pile on my desk. When the pile grows unwieldy, I transcribe my nuggets of possibility into a three-ringed notebook. It all sounds very efficient. Unfortunately, over the years, my handwriting has gotten so illegible, when I leaf through my notebook, I am often incapable of reading what I have written.

This problem increases exponentially when the ideas that come to me as I’m about to fall asleep, and I record them in a notepad, positioned for that purpose beside my bed. These words are invariably indecipherable. That World War II code breaker? Turing? The guy wouldn’t stand a chance cracking this stuff. It’s stenographized chicken scratchings.

I’ve written my “reminders” down blind. My contact lenses have been removed for the night and, although there are glasses resting in a case on my night table, I’m too concerned that, during the time required to take them out of the case and put them on, the idea will have flown from my consciousness and left the building.

This is hardly an unreasonable concern. There’s an age, which I, apparently, have reached, where an idea can vanish in the eye-blink between “I’ve gotta write that down!” and “What was it again?” You reach for your pen, inadvertently jogging your brain and poof – your brilliant idea is lost in space.

I jot down my thoughts without benefit of eye help. In the dark. It has to be in the dark, because if I wake up Dr. M, we would quickly be embroiled in other matters, matters related to selfishness and lack of consideration for the loved ones sleeping beside them, matters which would rapidly erase the idea I had turned the light on to jot down.

A sightless person scribbling illegibly in the dark. The resulting work product is unlikely to be useful.

And as if these difficulties didn’t suffice, when I can read my notes, on more occasions than my blood pressure can tolerate, I cannot understand what it is I have written down.

When I made those notes originally, I knew exactly what I had in mind, and I thought I always would. That’s why they were written in a condensed shorthand, rather than in fully elaborated detail. Who needs details, I’m sure I thought. It’s a sensational idea. Who wouldn’t remember how it goes?

Me.

When I later return to my condensed notes, and I have no idea what I was talking about.

It’s heartbreaking. The idea’s right there. You can see it in front of you. But, like a treasured item viewed through a department store window, the Object of Enthusiasm is infuriatingly out of reach.

Ideas are precious. And elusive. They’re not there, then they are. And if you don’t nail them down, they will vanish without a trace.

Ideas are like twinkling slivers of understanding. They flash in your mind, and you go, “Yeah!” It’s not usually the whole thing that comes to you. Just a fragment.

You take that idea, and you write a post about it. The readers respond, and off you go, winding up…who knows where? An illuminating thought, maybe. A dazzling insight, triggering unimagined possibilities for world peace and the betterment of humankind.

Over the top? Sorry, it’s my anniversary.

Of course, there is the possibility that I’m fooling myself. Last week, on 30 Rock, Alec Baldwin, in response to some obvious advice he’d been given replied, “Thank you for telling me what I already know. You should work for the Huffington Post.”

I contribute to the Huffington Post, though I may not be immune to telling you what you already know right here in this blog.

Oh, well.

I think I’ll keep doing it for a while.

Why? Because it’s my mission? Because it’s my pleasure? Because it nourishes my insatiable ego? Because what else have I got to do?

It’s probably a little of each.

14 comments:

angel said...

I HATE when I write something down and then can't understand what the heck I was saying.
So I think what I am telling you is that you are totally normal in this. Maybe not in other things, but definitely in this.


Happy 1 year. May it continue to bring you pleasure and never become a chore.

A. Buck Short said...

Another reason to keep a scrivener handy at all times. The height of discretion, even in those nocturnal inspirational moments. Whenever my wife proffers a suggestion, Bart just responds that he would prefer not to. Thank God. Still haven’t worked out all the other kinks. So far, Bart insists on having the finished piece typed out in its entirety first, and only then will he consider copying some of it into shorthand.

Sometimes I think it’s more productive to try to stay asleep and let the idea ride until it may pop up again during a more respectable hour. I believe it was in seventh grade that I implemented a foolproof plan to win the National Spelling Bee, using the patented subliminal pedantry technique. I scrupulously read and spelled out Scripps’ entire official list of “study words,” into the family reel-to-reel tape recorder, listening to these as I lapsed into slumber, and subliminally absorbing those that remained in my sleep. I would “study” the next list of words the following night on another reel if need be. Victory was almost certain, especially since most Asians had not yet been made aware of the opportunity. Unfortunately, the clatter upon having come to the end of the reel would awaken me perhaps six or seven times during this rigorous sleep-learning regimen. Let it suffice to say that not having slept for three or four nights does not leave one at the zenith of spelling proficiency.

Hope this hasn’t been an intrusion, but, as you know, milestone #1 is the “notes” anniversary. To ease whatever concern two comments on consecutive days may engender, please don’t take this as any kind of commitment.

rms said...

Happy first year anniversary! I've very much enjoyed your writing this past year and am looking forward to more. I can relate to the whole trying to get ideas down and then looking at them afterward and going huh? I'm sure I've lost many a great idea in indicipherable scribbling or incoherent rambling. However, I believe that just by writing it down I keep the ideas juices flowing and some idea I can actually use will stick. Either that or I'll fake it. Not everything has to end up working and realizing that has taken a lot of pressure off my writing.

Although working once in a while would be useful...

thevidiot said...

Congratulations on your milestone! I hope that you keep it up because I enjoy the reading and it also helps an editor like me figure out "what exactly they are smoking in the writers' room".

In your case, I would bet that it was more likely popping TicTacs or chewing gum than smoking, but the inside perspective on a part of my business that I rarely see and only hear about is interesting... err, make that stimulating (stronger word - like the talk radio station). Looking forward to another year!

growingupartists said...

And it seems like just yesterday was your 100th post. Congratulations, and looking forward right along with you!

diane said...

Congratulations on your anniversary! I am very grateful for what you've written so far and definitely hoping you will continue to post to your blog. This is always the most relaxing time of my day. It is very nice to have a bit of human contact in my little cubicle and it's always enjoyable to read about a career in a field so far removed from mine. I'm a bookkeeper and there should be no creativeness in what I do. I like that part as it's very akin to putting together puzzles. Anyway, I sincerely hope you find this writing pleasurable and that you will write anything you please. I know I will be here reading and enjoying every bit.

Rachel said...

Happy anniversary! More often then not you make me laugh out loud sitting at my desk which is quite a feat given I've heard many of these stories before. They just keep getting better, as do you.

Kisses, R

Dave said...

Been reading from Day, er... Sixty, maybe (found you through Entertainment Weekly), and I really enjoy the blog, Earl. I hipped my Dad to it, and he loves it, too - reads you every day. (Hi, Dad, if you also read these comments).

Eons ago, during my brief stand-up period, I kept a notebook of ideas. To this day, I have absolutely no idea what this entry meant:

"Dogs on the moon. Killer bit."

Yes, I actually wrote "killer bit" after the idea, that's how pleased I was with it. Never figured it out.

Now it's years later, but whenever I'm with my friends and I say something out of left field, or make a joke that falls flat, even money one of them will shout, "Dogs on the moon!"

Damn, I love those guys.

michelle said...

Congratulations Earl. You're still my favorite writer. As for bedtime inspiration, I made a decision a dozen or so years ago to get up--no matter what time it is--and write everything that comes into my head until it stops coming. Sometimes it's not so easy to get up, but it has been a very long time since i woke up the next morning to unrecognizable notes.

Joe said...

1- Congratulations.

2- Would it help if you printed?

KEN LEVINE said...

Congratulations, Earl. Seems like just yesterday you began this blog. The kids grow up fast.

All the best for year two.

45 is the new 30 said...

Congrats, Earl, and many thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.

I'm pretty sure I've been here since your very first blog entry - courtesy of a link that Ken Levine provided on his blog. I'm still kind of ... dazzled that I can regularly read (and respond to!) posts written by two of the guys who were involved in so many of the shows that have been my favorites over the years. Gotta love the Internet!)

I hope you enjoy writing these entries as much as I enjoy reading 'em. Here's to Year 2 and beyond!

Willy B. Good said...

Happy anniversary Earl and cheers for all the funny stories and may there be many more to come!

rms said...

"Dogs on the moon."

I'm totally stealing that!

(Actually you may have stolen it from me. Years ago I wrote a short story about an augmented guard dog on a small moon trying to stop a robbery. Not as stupid as it sounds, honestly. It actually sold.)