My wife likes to call me, among other things, her little Idea Hamster. That’s because I’m constantly spinning off ideas; there’s not always a complete follow-up, because a lot of my ideas are long-form (novels, scripts, etc.), and besides, coming up with the ideas — then doing the initial brainstorming from that idea — is the fun part.
I didn’t used to be quite such a hamster, but the past ten years have made a difference. Getting my ADD under control (to some extent, anyway), getting involved in standup comedy, and, more recently, forcing myself to post on my blog pretty much every day have really honed those creative blades.
The reason I bring this up now is because I wanted to note, for my own future reference, that I had a really cool song idea a couple of nights ago. Sure, I get lots of song ideas, and have since I was in a band in my 20s, but for the most part they’re ideas for song fragments or structures. The idea I had Tuesday night arrived almost fully formed, or at least outlined, and it strikes me as being fairly unique.
For one thing, it’s a story song, which don’t seem to be nearly as popular these days as they were in the Fifties and Sixties: Big Bad John, Tell Laura I Love Her, Last Kiss, Ringo, A Boy Named Sue, El Paso — the list goes on and on.
And this idea of mine recalls some of those old tunes — or at least it will when I get it written.
The best part is that this is a short-form idea: Writing a whole song is absolutely within reach of my puny attention span.
The interesting thing about my having the idea is what she and I have come to call my “toothpaste ideas”: Concepts that come to me as I’m brushing my teeth last thing at night, right before going to bed.
The first and best of such ideas occurred almost exactly 9 years ago. I leaned out of the bathroom, toothbrush in hand and a mouth full of toothpaste, and said, “Hey, I just thought up a joke …”
It turned out to be one of my best jokes; Dan Merryman kept trying to buy it from me, but I was using it as my opener, and wasn’t interested in selling.
My co-worker Marrissa is the exact opposite of me: She’s constantly writing and submitting screenplays, but sometimes she gets stuck for ideas.
I’ll toss out ideas faster than she can work on them: “Hey, Marrissa, I’ve got an idea for a black buddy comedy!”
Or a TV series about ghost researchers. Or a series about werewolves.
Personally, I don’t get into those horror/supernatural works, but she does, and I’m obliging.
She keeps saying that she her dream is to someday have a suite of offices in HBO headquarters, with my in the next office, playing computer games and occasionally going, “Hey, Marrissa, I just got another idea.”
Yeah, I could get used to that. Except for the part about having to move to wherever HBO’s HQ is …
But the best part of my idea is that it gives me a glimpse of my creative process. As you know if you’ve reading here, I’ve had a tough couple of weeks, and now, as I’m emerging from my feverish cocoon and start feeling better, the ideas just keep bubbling to the surface.
I haven’t had much energy or even awareness for the past week, and I think that did a lot to giving my brain, especially my subconscious, the rest it needed to start fresh.
I can’t wait to see what ideas come next — but first I guess I’d better work on that song …