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.