In the middle of the night, by the LED light of the stereo, I wrote. It was 2.42 a.m. I sat up, all tangled in the covers. My bag is at the end of the bed, and inside it, a notebook. I flipped it open backwards because I knew there were blank pages there. I have a pen clipped to it, because I lose them otherwise. I tested the pen against my finger, feeling for the point, because it was too dark to see.
Does it matter what I wrote? Does it matter the hasty, weird shit that struck me at that hour?
Yes. Of course it does.
I’m a sleeper. Not like, “I sleep”. More like “I SLEEP, GODDAMN IT”. I sleep hard. I sleep stupid. I sleep making weird gestures and in wonky positions and saying crazy, crazy crap.
But here I am, again, awake, like so many nights, clutching a pen. Compelled. Because I respect it.
By the light of day, the lines I wrote are barely legible and totally silly. It seems foolish, kind of pompous. Overwritten, maybe. I even edited it in the dark. I don’t particularly like it. But I respect it.
Ideas are everywhere. Imagine a cloud filled sky above you, blue sky peeking through. Now imagine every microscopic drop of moisture in those clouds is an idea. Imagine a beautiful beach stretching before you for miles. Each grain of sand, drifting through your parted fingers, is an idea. All you have to do is show some respect.
Yeah, the lines I wrote are kind of not great. But if I let them mellow, age like wine or proof like bread, they might turn into something. They might not. But now I’m cultivating them, I’m giving that spark a little breath, in the hopes it will turn into a fire. Cultivation is the key. You never know what will spark, what will burn, what will blaze.
Everything around you is fuel. The people you know, the things you see, the weird thoughts that cross your mind when you should be asleep but now you’re not. The people you don’t know yet, the things you have yet to see, the places you haven’t been, the places no one has been, all of these things are yours. These are the things you idle on, you chew over, you pull and prod and turn into something entirely new. Oliver told you how. I’m telling you why.
I’m willing to bet I could start a business selling ideas. Want to be a writer? Send me a buck, I’ll send you an idea. And I’m betting I’d do pretty well. Maybe not a fortune, but I’d do alright. Because people believe ideas come from some sort of magic, that there’s some spell that turns normal, everyday crap into something amazing. I’d capitalize on that belief and make a living off it.
But you don’t need someone to come up with ideas for you. You need to change the way you look for them.
Think about it like casting a net. If you want a big catch, you get a massive net with tiny, tiny little holes, so almost nothing slips through. Once you drag your net on shore, you might find there are only a few things worth keeping. You might find a few “maybes” that you hang on to. You’ll probably find a lot of things you don’t really need and so you throw them back.
I think most people cast too small a net, with holes that are far too big. I think your best ideas are swimming right through. You’re knee-deep in a sea of them, and there they go, about their business.
Respect the little ideas. Respect the big ones. Respect the maybes. Cultivate them. Doodle on cocktail napkins. Doodle on the back of your hand. Steal bits of conversations, steal appearances, interesting walks, facial tics, hand gestures. Read everything. Watch everything. Then let it mellow. Let it idle.
This is how you cultivate. You take the icky, weird, not-so-good, not-so-interesting, not-so-well-formed things that cross your path, and you let them grow. You give them a little respect and watch what happens. All the beautiful ideas in the world are waiting for you, if you’re just willing to allow them in.
We all find what we’re looking for in this life, good and bad. If you’re not “getting” ideas, then it’s time to ask yourself if you’re really looking.