One of the most challenging and fun things to do when writing a weekly blog-podcast is to figure out what you’re going to write about. People often ask me how I come up with my ideas. The truth is quite simple, it’s whatever is trending in my mind that week. I’m not quite sure when the word ‘trend’ started being used more as a verb than a noun, but I have a feeling it developed rapidly the last decade as surfing had less to do with water sports, just like texting, tweeting, and blogging eclipsed the age-old communication form known as writing.
The amount of information we consume has dramatically increased in recent years due to the unstoppable rise of the internet and smart gadgets of all kinds connecting us more and more to a world beyond our immediate surroundings. We’ve come a long way from smoke signals, pigeon carriers, the printing press, the telegraph, the telephone, the radio, and the television. Now we live with streams and clouds which have nothing to do with water, and are made of all kinds of bits of big data, which we somehow try to make sense of when we try to find things to talk about.
So when I sit down and try to filter this flood of information into a weekly column I do two things: I ask myself what is the main thing in my mind this week and what is the main thing maybe in other people’s minds this week. In short what is topical to me and what might be topical to others. The first part is pretty simple where I have a conversation with myself something like this:
So, Mr. Writer-Man, what’s on your mind this week.
SHH, I’M SLEEPING.
But it’s time to write T.I.L.T.!
ALREADY? HAS ANOTHER WEEK GONE BY?
Yes, and you’re one week closer to death.
THANKS, NOW I’M AWAKE.
Good, you know the secret to writing is ‘butt in seat’ so get with it.
BUT BUTT IN BED IS SO MUCH NICER.
But what about your fans? You can’t let them down — it’s Friday.
I HAVE FANS?
According to website stats, yes.
HMMM. I THINK 95% OF MY TRAFFIC IS WIFEY WHO’S STILL SLEEPING HAPPILY IN BED.
Come on, get with it!
ALL RIGHT ALREADY, I’LL WRITE ALREADY.
So, what’s on your mind this week?
WORK. BILLS. WORK. RUNNING. WORK. THE WEATHER. WORK. WIFEY. WORK. AND MORE WORK.
You think about work a lot.
I WOULDN’T CALL IT THINKING.
What then, obsessing?
Then why not write about work?
NO THANKS, IT REALLY ISN’T VERY INTERESTING AND WRITING IS A WAY FOR ME TO ESCAPE WORK. IT’S MY TIME.
Ok, so you could write about bills, running, the weather, or wifey.
BILLS ARE BORING. I WROTE ABOUT RUNNING TWO WEEKS AGO. AND I WROTE ALL ABOUT THE WEATHER IN A PAST T.I.L.T. LONG AGO.
What about wifey?
SHE’D LOVE THAT, BUT THEN AGAIN, MAYBE NOT — DEPENDS ON WHICH SIDE OF THE BED SHE GETS UP ON TODAY.
Right. No comment.
HMMM. WHAT TO WRITE. . .
And on and on I go talking to myself in circuitous fashion until I ask myself the next question:
So what’s on other people’s minds?
NO IDEA, I’M NOT A MIND READER. OTHERWISE I WOULD KNOW WHAT TO WRITE ABOUT WIFEY.
ASK GOOGLE ABOUT WIFEY?
No, no, ask Google what’s on other people’s minds.
YOU MEAN GOOGLE IT? ANOTHER ONE OF MY FAVORITE NEW VERBS.
OK, GOOGLE, WHAT’S ON OTHER PEOPLE’S MINDS?
So, what did it say?
A BUNCH OF CRAP WHICH MIGHT HAVE BEEN ONE OF THE WORDS ‘WHAT’S ON OTHER PEOPLE’S MINDS’. HMM.
You need to see what’s trending on the internet.
RIGHT. TRENDING, THAT VERB AGAIN. OK LET’S SEE . . .
EVEN MORE CRAP.
I’M EMBARRASSED TO SAY.
BECAUSE I JUST ENDED UP WASTING ABOUT FIVE MINUTES OF MY LIFE WATCHING A BUNCH OF WEDDING BLOOPER VIDEOS.
TOP HIT ON BUZZFEED.COM!
Why are so many people looking at wedding bloopers?
NO IDEA, I GUESS WE LIKE WATCHING OTHER PEOPLE’S PERSONAL DISASTERS.
What about Google news? What’s on there right now?
FERGUSON. DRUNK SECRET SERVICE. RACIST FRATERNITIES. ISIS. BOKO HARAM. IRAN. ESSENTIALLY EVEN MORE PERSONAL AND PUBLIC DISASTERS.
I KNOW, MAKES THINKING ABOUT WORK TOO MUCH SEEM PLEASANT.
Wouldn’t you rather think about wifey?
ALWAYS. BUT I STILL DON’T KNOW WHAT TO WRITE ABOUT THIS WEEK.
Maybe you should write about trying to figure out what to write about?
THAT DOESN’T SOUND VERY INTERESTING.
You know, you could write about how you talk to yourself.
THAT’S EVEN MORE EMBARRASSING.
Is it? I’m sure everybody does it.
I DON’T KNOW, I MEAN, I LIKE TALK TO MYSELF ALL THE TIME.
OR EVEN WORSE, I TALK TO OTHER PEOPLE WHO AREN’T EVEN HERE.
You mean, like an imaginary friend?
NO, I MEAN LIKE REAL PEOPLE I KNOW.
But why do you talk to them when they aren’t there?
I IMAGINE TALKING TO THEM.
WHATEVER I WANT TO TELL THEM.
Then why not just tell them for real?
THAT’S THE POINT, IT’S LIKE I’M REHEARSING ALL THE TIME, PRACTICING JUST WHAT I WANT TO SAY AND HOW I MIGHT WANT TO SAY IT.
But how do you know what they’re going to say?
I DON’T. THAT’S THE PROBLEM. I HAVE TO GUESS. AND SO I RUN THROUGH THE IMAGINARY SCENE OVER AND OVER AGAIN WITH VARIATIONS ON THE SCRIPT BASED ON WHAT I THINK THEY MIGHT POSSIBLY SAY VERSUS WHAT I MIGHT POSSIBLY SAY.
So you basically talk to yourself.
YOU WOULD KNOW, RIGHT?
Right. Does it help?
TALKING TO MYSELF?
The rehearsing part. Do you then end up having the conversations for real at some point?
SOMETIMES. BUT SOME THINGS I REALLY WANT TO SAY TO PEOPLE, YOU JUST CAN’T SAY TO PEOPLE.
I MIGHT OFFEND THEM.
I DON’T WANT TO END UP BEING A PERSONAL OR PUBLIC DISASTER.
YOU KNOW I HATE CONFLICT.
HEY NOW, WATCH IT.
CUT IT OUT!
What are you going to do about it? Stop talking to me?
. . . . . . . . . HMMMM.
Seriously, though, when you do have conversations for real, ones that you’ve rehearsed ahead of time with yourself, does it ever go like you imagine it will?
NEVER. WHAT SOUNDS GOOD IN MY HEAD SOMEHOW FALLS FLAT IN REALITY AND PEOPLE ALWAYS SAY AND REACT IN WAYS THAT I CAN’T PREDICT.
Then why do you rehearse?
I HAVE NO IDEA. TOO MANY YEARS IN SHOW BUSINESS I GUESS, MANUFACTURING ARTIFICIAL REPRESENTATIONS OF IMAGINED REALITIES. IN A WAY, IT’S LIKE MY MIND IS ITS OWN INTERNET, FULL OF CRAP, TRENDING ON ONE THING OR ANOTHER, OVER AND OVER AGAIN TRYING TO HAVE A SAY AND MAKE SOME SENSE OF IT ALL. OR MAYBE JUST TO ENTERTAIN MYSELF.
Well, I guess even non-showbiz people do the same thing.
I do it all the time.
BUT YOU’RE ME.
Perhaps. But maybe not the showbiz you.
I HAVE MORE THAN ONE ME?
HMMM. MAYBE. I GUESS WE’LL HAVE TO ASK THEM.
For real or in your imagination?
BOTH. THAT WAY I’LL KNOW IF WHAT’S TRENDING IN MY MIND IS TRENDING IN THEIR MIND.
WHO KNOWS. ONLY ONE WAY TO FIND OUT.
BY STOPPING TALKING TO MYSELF AND START WRITING.
Sounds like a plan.
Who gets the last word today?