Thursday, March 29, 2018

"The Idea For Ideas"

A while back, “Commenter Tom” wrote,

“Where do your blog ideas come from?”

What Tom proceeded to say reminded me of a time when I accompanied my daughter Anna to an appointment with our mutual, beloved allergist, and when the nurse walked her out after her examination, she said, “Dr. R wants to know, “What’s your father doing, sitting out in the Waiting Room?’”  To which I overhearingly replied, “He just answered his own question.”

As, equally accurately, did “Commenter Tom.”  

“In my experience a personal experience or a concept on the media triggers a reaction, and from that thought an essay is born.”

“On the money”, “Commenter Tom.”  The thing is – at least for me – there is more.

What I am talking about concerns the “What?” and the “How?” in developing a viable post idea, a distinguishing concept that applies throughout life.  I believe. 

Contrasting Examples:

Example One:  You accidentally bump into someone, you go – especially if are a Canadian – “Sorry.”

Example Two:  You accidentally bump into someone, they shoot you an angry look, and you angrily shoot back – because you did not bump them on purpose – (SARCASTICALLY) “Sor-ry.”

You see the difference?

The same “What?” – the word “Sorry” – but two diametrically different “How’s?”  (One of them possibly instigating a fist fight.  The first one?  Only if you read “Hidden Meaning” into genuine sincerity.) 

What “Commenter Tom” astutely referred to was the “What?” of the operation.  The proverbial “Topic Sentence”, if you will, and if you were in Miss McFadden’s class at the Toronto Hebrew Day School, you had to have one, or or she gave you “the Ruler.” Tough school, “T.H.D.S.”  Even in “Grammar.”

It’s true.  You need that “Inciting Incident”, or you’ve got nothing to write about.  But for me, that’s just “Part One” of the exercise.

“Part Two” – because my stated objective is to deliver a manicured bonsai of a blogatorial experience – is the “How?”

How exactly do you satisfactorily articulate that story?

Which leaves me a haphazard stack of “Whats?” on my desk with no – until one comes to me – imaginable “How?” plan for molding them into eptable shape.

For a while, I thought that’s all I had to say on the matter.  Distinguishing the “What?” and the “How?” in the two-tiered blogatorial operation. 

And then a third element came to mind, involving a lesson I have learned but then forgot and have to relearn and am relearning again at this very moment by which I do not mean while I am writing this sentence but in the course of thinking about where ideas come from which I shall get to as soon as this sentence which I shall admit is not all that fascinating is mercifully over.

Phew!   I made it!

The third element in the process involves the essential but hard-to-retain question:

“What’s a story?”

As in, “What exactly designates ‘Something worth writing about’?”

And the answer is:

Virtually everything.

All stories, large and small.

In the first post I ever wrote, a kind of a Just Thinking “Mission Statement”, I mentioned the range of material I’d be covering, using as an example the story of how I was first sent to summer camp without knowing I was going.

That, I knew, was a story.

But years later, I wrote an equally satisfying narrative about how intimidated I felt by this humungous bar of shower soap that had been purchased, fearing, following its soapatorial propensity, it might easily slip from my hand and seriously damage my foot digits.

Sir and madam, I am here to tell you that, although not life-altering,

That’s also a story.

A “Giant Soap Nightmare” story.

Sometimes, I am just trying too hard.  I have to remember that not all stories are – or must be – going over Niagara Falls in a barrel.

Which reminds me that the Canadian Falls are demonstrably superior. 

That’s a story.  (About the competitive silliness of ”National Identity.”)

Which reminds me of my sole TV acting role on the cult sitcom Buffalo Bill, where I played “Crazy Eddie” Felsik, “The Human Salmon” – who went over Niagara Falls in a barrel.

That’s a story.  (One I may have already told.)

Which reminds me of a friend who reported attending an honorary tribute to Dabney Coleman – the star of Buffalo Bill – who recently – my friend, not Dabney Coleman – was married for the fifth time.

That’s a story.  About – because you know I don’t judge – comparing one extended marriage with five abbreviated ones.  Segueing into chronicling how many of my contemporaries are encountering new and fulfilling relationship via the numerous dating services offered over the Internet.

And that’s a story.

Which reminds me of our recent trip to Arizona, where the Internet’s “Route Guidance” system brought us to unknown destinations, including the “Odelay Bagel Co.”, which not only made the best bagels in Arizona – are you chuckling? – but anywhere, including “What A Bagel” in Toronto.

And that’s a story.  (About prejudiced expectations.  “Great bagels in ‘Cactus Country’?  I don’t think so.”  Wrong!)

Which reminds me of…

Well, you get the idea.  And I’m only quitting for “time.”  I have three more “Which reminds me of’s” waiting to roll out.

The fact is, there are stories everywhere you look.  As long as you do not equate “Story” with five-alarm “Breaking News.”

And still – knowing that – I remain wracked with uncertainty over available material.

Not because I have finally emptied the cupboard.

But because I think of “Story” the wrong way.

I thought “Commenter Tom’s” self-answered question wasn’t a post.  And you know what?

I appear to have been mistaken.

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