Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

The Day I Ran Out Of Ideas

*{}*It's already the horror of writers both freelance and staff. Whether you're bringing two pitches to a weekly staff meeting or going for coffee with a new or an old editor, you have to have ideas. But not just any ideas! These ideas have to be ideas that might interest the Internet. They are ideas that won't repel the business side of the publication. They are ideas that can be illustrated. You have to have a take on a thing, but not too much of a take. You have to be able to report out that take. At heart there's nothing wrong with these kinds of ideas. They aren't all the ideas in the world, sure, and maybe not your own favorite ideas, but they're at least easily communicated by headline and keyword. Imagining this type of idea is a specific way of thinking. It's like Luke blowing up the death star, only he doesn't have a space ship and he is mostly just headed off on his own at a brisk walk. But he still has to send this bright sparkly thing down a long dark canyon. And it can't hit any of the sides or it just fizzles out and then poor Luke's idea is done.

Of course it would seem reasonable to expect that the ever-growing cohort of constant output-makers might bring a certain amount of idea burnout into the game. Not only that, but there's an even greater risk for burnout on "listening to yourself prattle on." Believe it, as annoying as you may find any blogger, there are days that she or he is even more annoyed by his or her own voice.

But while there is a certain amount of energy expenditure in thinking and in writing that is self-renewing and actually generative-the more you do it, the stronger your fingers and mind get for it, definitely!-there is also a point at which you have gone back to the place that makes ideas, particularly those handy, packaged ideas, too many times and, well. I see it as a little inky pituitary gland somewhere in my neck. Like a very little clear glass beaker, with a tiny amount of black fluid in it. And like any endocrinal system in an unnatural condition, it gets totally shriveled and spent.

Well, today I ran out of all ideas. I wasn't having necessarily the best day already? I was already feeling defensive and confused and put-upon. But I knew it was all over when I went to the refrigerator. Cheese. Bread. Yogurt. Peanut butter. I can't make anything out of this, I thought. How do people eat anyway? There's Canadian bacon? What would you do with that? Put it on something else? In the end, the time can come when you run out of ideas so hard that you run out of ideas about how to eat food.

91 Comments / Post A Comment

NicFit (#616)

If you have some pasta, and egg an some grated cheese, you can turn that canadian bacon into pasta carbonara. Just a thought…

Foxy (#2,703)

Man, you eat meat? Fuck

You're welcome to anything you want from my tumblr. These are the kinds of sacrifices I'll make for The Awl. (just kidding, it's all crap!)

How about that UVA lacrosse murder? Also, am I doing this wrong? Do you not actually want ideas? I get so confused sometimes. I'm going to go hit lamp-posts with sticks.

C_Webb (#855)


HiredGoons (#603)

That's a florescent light tube.

Tyler Coates (#451)

One time in college I wrote an essay about how hard it is to write essays sometimes.

jolie (#16)

Half-Baked in the Comments: Make a Canadian bacon & cheese panini for lunch. Have the yogurt as dessert. If you need a snack this afternoon buy a piece of fruit, like an apple or a banana, and put the peanut butter on it.

Bah! Jinx.

Grilled Canadian bacon and cheese sandwich. Maybe you just need a nap.

You have the fixings for an amazing grilled cheese and bacon sandwich.

If you've got any pickles or anything brined in there, you are SO set.

Leave the peanut butter and yogurt alone for now.

WOW! 3rd. Imagine how i feel at the idea game right now. Like a bronze medalist. See? It isn't so bad after all!

I am totally getting a ham sandwich for lunch.

Abe Sauer (#148)

Needs a slideshow!

Art Yucko (#1,321)

moar bullit-pointz, plz

Matt (#26)

Where did you get that picture of me as a pool salesman/aquatic consultant?

HiredGoons (#603)

I am interested in your goods/services.

Matt (#26)

I sold a pool drunk once. It's all been downhill from there.

Fredrick (#268)

I mean, like…order a pizza, right?

Brian (#115)

And like, eat it on the beach or in the driveway? With a smoke?

garge (#736)

If the yogurt is plain and you have some garlic lying around, maybe you can make a nice yogurt sauce to dip your grilled cheese and bacon sandwich. Even better, meander to the market, taking deep inhales followed by deep exhales. Buy a cucumber to add to the yogurt sauce, saving slices to place over your closed eyelids.

garge (#736)

No idea how this ended up here. Scratch all of that, just order a pizza!

Art Yucko (#1,321)

Most ideas I have of late involve alcoholism.

cherrispryte (#444)

I am up to my neck in grad papers, but I do not think the general internet is interested in what I'm focusing on (anything and everything related to youth and conflict, essentially – I've got 3 different papers in the works right now.)

If, however, you wanted to do a long, heavily-cited post on how female suicide bombers in Iraq fit within the general dialogue regarding the global youth bulge, I'd really appreciate it.

"Youth bulge." Heh.

cherrispryte (#444)

Demographics are frequently dirty like that.

HiredGoons (#603)

*warning: the following program contains demographic material*

HiredGoons (#603)

Get stoned, take a walk, and maybe go watch some kids play on a playground.

But, you know, not in like a pervy way.

Also: maybe look at Art?

cherrispryte (#444)

Your idea is far superior to my idea.

HiredGoons (#603)

It's VERY IMPORTANT to make it clear you're not being a creepy weirdo though. Like, maybe chat up some of the parents or fake-phone-call and just say oh-so-conspicuously "JUST OUT CAPTURING MY LOST SENSE OF INNOCENCE BY WATCHIN' SOME KIDS ON THE SWING SET MY SEXUAL PARTNER OF CONSENTING AGE. I'LL BE HOME LATER AND THEN WE CAN WACTH SOME MOVIE THAT IS NOT 'THE TIN DRUM' OR THAT WEIRDO NICOLE KIDMAN MOVIE."

Multiphasic (#411)

Art is pretty funny looking. Ha-ha, Art.

kneetoe (#1,881)

@HiredGoons: Exactly. I looked at an apartment across from a playground once, and went to check it out for my kids. After about 3 seconds I recognized the creep factor I was presenting and slinked off (perhaps furthering my creep-factor).

Slava (#216)

Fucking MAGNETS. How do THEY work!?!

HiredGoons (#603)

It's like walking off the edge of a cliff in a Looney Tunes cartoon; better to just ignore the issue.

Steve (#1,777)

Juggalos want to know.

A peanut butter sandwich and yogurt is a fairly healthy lunch. Also, sorry about this comment: http://www.theawl.com/2010/05/pink-weekly-debuts-cash-for-traffic-reporter-bonus-jackpot-scheme#comment-92824

Oh no, don't tell me we have to start apologizing for our comments (I have guilt problems already)

How 'bout contributor updates? The Bar Exam results came out last week – any news? How about Amy Jean – what's the baby news?

Lesson: just mine other peoples lives. It'll fill inches.

Or you could mime other people's lives, which would probably be more fun for us, too.

jtotheizzoe (#2,902)

You could do at least 5 posts about the painful journey of non-discovery. People get famous for that shit. Usually because of early suicide, but HEY!

johnpseudonym (#1,452)

Peanut butter on toast – works for either lunch or a post.

It's okay, I've run out of ideas on how to comment.

brent_cox (#40)

Multiphasic (#411)

Sexual innuendo, self-deprecation celebrity reference, mention of location in NYC intended to give aura of insider-ness. SPY EMILY DENTON, LEG-HUMP BALK.

HiredGoons (#603)

Stories from your life tangentially related to the subject matter of a particular post.

Hitting on other commenters.

Dry, laconic one-liners that convey your world-weariness.

HiredGoons (#603)

Just do a Listicle Without Commentary.

Choire IS LUKE!!

Bittersweet (#765)

Shave the beard and whine a lot more and he's not far off…

Multiphasic (#411)

Did we run out of Mollies already?

Multiphasic (#411)

For the love of Jesus and publishing, people, MAKE ANOTHER MOLLY.

Vulpes (#946)

Just throw up some porn and call it a day. Either that or just write about Star Wars since it's on your mind already. The longest posts on my blog are probably the Star Wars ones. But, then, I'm a gigantic NERRRRRRRRRRRRRD, so whatever.

I don't know if there is Star Wars porn and I am at work so I am not gonna go looking for any. However I did come across this:


HiredGoons (#603)

The image of someone throwing up porn is intriguing to me.

Great mutant power, or greatest mutant power?

HiredGoons (#603)

Certainly the most rewarding.

Sablesma (#1,244)

You DON'T KNOW if there is Star Wars porn? The same Star Wars that is perhaps THE beloved franchise of male nerddom? The one with a slave woman in a metal bikini? (not to mention multi-breasted aliens in various states of undress!) If there is not porn about Star Wars, there is porn about NOTHING.

Vulpes (#946)

I'm sure Hustler has/is doing a "This Ain't Star Wars XXX"; they've done everything else. And then there was one with Evan Stone that I forget the name of right now. What's weird is that I don't know of any gay porn versions, only the straight ones.

Vulpes (#946)

Oh, and as soon as I posted I regretted the "throw up some porn" choice of words because it does make it sound like someone's vomiting Raging Stallion DVDs. On the one hand, EWWWWWWWW! On the other, useful and economical!

brad (#1,678)

well, the odd part about this way of thinking is being under the impression that the substance of what you say is important. as though i come here and read this stuff because it's New. it's the conversation i enjoy. old men sitting outside on a bench as they have for a couple of decades. what do they talk about? bears. men, and their lizard brains. really great movies that are too draining to ever watch again. these things? peanut butter and canadian bacon? sure, why the hell not.

sailor (#396)

Small consolation, but running out of ideas at least means you have some every now and again. I wouldn't fret about it.

sallytomato (#549)

Uh, how about snarking on the "outfits" at the Costume Ball last night? The Fug Girls are letting me down.

The Fug girls usually take a while to post. ALT never disappoints though


Bittersweet (#765)

Thanks, kitten! Speaking of Star Wars, ALT looks like a giant Jedi master there, doesn't he?

All he needs is a helmet.

stevespillman (#3,199)

Just, like, post a lot of cool but sorta boring pictures from around the world and promise they're "going somewhere."

Or come drink iced tea w/ me.

Rod T (#33)

Madonna seems to keep churning shit out. Be more like Madonna.

cuiveen (#370)

I don't think Choire can afford that much plastic surgery.

What's the writer equivalent of a drum machine?

HiredGoons (#603)


garge (#736)

If there were a Glee episode dedicated to Choire, I would watch it.

kneetoe (#1,881)

Reminds me of the day I ran out of ideals. Turns out, I'm better off without.

tiny dancer (#1,774)

Do you have any material for a post on ghost hauntings? This is very selfish and possibly crazy sounding. I think my house might be haunted. But I can't sleep anymore and it's driving me crazy. And I'd rather hear about these things from this site. Oh god please someone help.

garge (#736)

There HAS to be someone at A&E who can help you. If you want, I can annotate episodes of Psychic Kids and send you lists of their methods. Do you think it is human or demon?

tiny dancer (#1,774)

Is demon seriously an option? Oh shit. How do you tell? I would guess human, mostly because I don't like the sound of the alternative. Also, it likes to watch TV. It switches the channel to Syfy's Ghost Hunters, which I have been too afraid to watch. All of that was tolerable, but things other than the TV have been an issue. Oh, I realize how this must sound. Also, Psychic Kids–I didn't know about them, thank you.

You might have a carbon monoxide leak.

garge (#736)

I bet it is human. On Psychic Kids (which is awesome, but I would wait until you aren't having your own ghostly issues), they are asked which they think 'it' is, and if ever they say 'demon,' they vamoose. I am sorry you are having ghost issues, and hope you can make it relax (or plug the leak??)!

kneetoe (#1,881)

It likes tv. Make it watch Ghost with Demi Moore etc. That'll convince it to leave.

tiny dancer (#1,774)

Many thanks for the tips. As much as I'd prefer it to be a leak (because I'd get some sleep), I'm not ready to sleep forever yet. However, the movie Ghost with Demi Moore must be on some channel at all times of the night, so this is good.

sox (#652)

I say take the afternoon off. Go enjoy yourself and rest and think about absolutely nothing. We'll all get some much needed work done and be back tomorrow!

xo, hope you feel better!

mickeyitaliano (#2,202)

Peanut Butter in the fridge is just wrong…unless you have a cuckaracha problem.

sajrocks (#2,067)

Persistence trumps talent? Beat a dead horse? No day but today? What would Gary Larson do?

Matt H (#45)

I like this non-idea piece, and I tend to think the primacy of the snappy well-packaged idea is a pretty fatiguing concept anyway.

hman (#53)

This Little Piggy – but I'd hate to see you bloated and achy.

belltolls (#184)

I got an idea! But I stole it; so you will have to pay for it.

As you know, it is not about what you are talking about. It is HOW you talk about it. So, Choire, you are missing your mojo right now. Which is OK. These things are cyclical.

Take some time to go get your mojo back, and then you can come back here talk about how Johnny Weir might hypothetically bake a batch of muffins, and you'll be charming about it, and you'll throw in some neat little tangential references and everyone will be happy.

zorica (#4,135)

I was at this party the other night and it was kind of boring but I signed a contract a few years ago that caps my personal boredom allowance relatively low, so instead of floating around adhering to the "oh dear I'm bored" script I started listening to people's inane nonsense. People have a lot to say tucked in between whatever they think they're actually saying – especially when they're not talking directly to me, but even when they are. Two acquaintances said small little things that took the top of my head right off, and a person I'd never met before said something so unintentionally revealing that I can't think too much about it or my heart might break.

Start listening to people when they're talking about boring stuff that you're not interested in. It might not lead directly to your next creme de la blog but it'll restart the engine, get things humming again. At the very least it puts you in touch with the actual source of drama, as opposed to imitation of it. It's just a guess but I'm gonna say drama is what you're really missing. Those things in your fridge do not sound like active characters for you at the moment. Get an angel and a villain on your plate with an anti-hero in your glass.

Or if that fails, music. Music and silence, in alternation, across the rags of time, until order is restored.

missdelite (#625)

Ooh, this is fun!

1. Video diary of your endeavour to create the world's largest Elvis collage out of belly lint.
2. Undercover expose of how many High Balls it takes to get Balk to moon Cho.
3. New York tranny makeup tips for guys too shy to ask.
4. Recipe for granny's Passive Aggressive Pot Pie.
5. Countdown to The Awl's 2nd Anniversary advent calendar.
6. Ten ways Gawker is like the big brother you never had.
7. Go ask Conan – he knows everything.

barnhouse (#1,326)

This is just so gorgeous, is the thing. I don't know if you've read Infinite Jest but it reminds me so much of the bit where Gately is speaking at an AA meeting, and complaining furiously about how vapid and just stupid and pointless AA is, and everyone stands up and applauds and hits him on the back and says it was the greatest thing anyone has ever said in AA.

"Keep coming!" hahahahaha. Oh god.

brad (#1,678)

but we know he was really just thinking about getting with the ladies.

barnhouse (#1,326)

bwahahaha HOW you crack me up. I would have said so earlier, but you can't message on this thing.

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