I am Arthur Wingsmith, and I have no idea. This has come as a shock. I’d always believed that ideas are much like sphincters in the human body: it’s impossible to get comfortably through a day without having several. It’s not like I need idea as a plural. I only want one; I know my limits, so tend to set the bar pretty low. Yet here I am, sans idea, and concerned that I’m going to end up having a very sphincterish day.
I am certain that this has happened to me before; it’s just that I can’t remember it. Obviously, I found the experience traumatic enough that my mind – sensibly – decided to repress the memory to protect me. There’s an irony in that: existential dread is something of a hobby with me, which makes it strange that I would forget any experience of it. Still, one can’t help bad luck, and it is probably a terrible plan to go searching for repressed discomfort. But my problem still remains: how – in the name of The Great Hermit-Archivist – am I going to come up with an idea?
Perhaps a quick think about what it is that ideas like to do will yield results. Do they, for instance, enjoy long walks in cool forests? Perhaps they are more urban, and prefer having coffee with friends? What sort of movies do they like? Do ideas even watch movies? Maybe long format television is more their speed? Wait. Do ideas hang out in books? Like, say, notebooks, for example? I’m pretty sure I have a notebook around here somewhere – several, probably – I’ll just take a quick look.
[Rustling of pages, many thumps, and much profanity.]
Okay … I checked. You are not going to believe this – I can scarcely believe it myself. Be warned, though, it’s a bit of a good news/bad news situation. The good news is that: yes, ideas are very fond of notebooks. The bad news is that – and despite their general love for stationery – not all ideas are very good. Mine seem to be especially poor. Or rather, I’ve used all the good ones I wrote down, and am left with only the most impoverished of barely legible scrawls.
Tell you what, I’ll give you an example of the kind of unused ideas I have available. That way, you can judge the quality for yourself.
[Sound of pages turning.]
Ah. Here we go, this one looks pretty awful:
Potential AW title: “No Face Beneath the Beard.”
Premise – is it a premise? Can I call it that? What if I’m wrong, and it is not really a premise at all, but something altogether different? What if, after I’m dead, someone finds this notebook, reads this and says: “Hahahahahaha, that Arthur Wingsmith really wasn’t the shiniest blade in the knife draw. Hahahahahahaha … he thinks that’s a premise; how adorable. What an idiot.”
Fuck it. No one is ever going to read this, I’ll call it whatever I want.
Argues against the statement I keep hearing – mostly from people I don’t like; especially Fred (he’s a serious wanker) – that you can’t trust men with beards, because you can’t see their faces. I will offer the cogently laid-out counter argument that, as beards grow out of faces, they are therefore part of the face, which means you are actually looking at my face Fred. It’s called facial hair, for crying out loud. I mean, it’s obviously my face. Moreover, my beard is fantastic. Screw you Fred. And that person reading me after I’m dead thinks I’m the idiot; I don’t think so.
So. You see my problem. All the ideas I have left in my notebooks are terrible. And the good ones? Well, you can read most of them by looking at any of the posts I’ve published on this site. I’m sure you already knew that, though. But that isn’t important right now.
What is important, is that the only thing I did see when I checked my scribbles – the only thing that looked even remotely promising – isn’t really an idea at all. It’s just a sentence. In fact, you’ve already seen it, which means I’ve already used this non-idea. It reads: “I am Arthur Wingsmith, and I have no idea.” So … well … bugger.
But wait. Maybe I’ve been going about this all wrong. What if I can get an idea by exploring the nature of my non-idea? What if it’s not really a non-idea at all, but something altogether cooler? Perhaps, it is a meta-idea. Oh yeah … that’s good. I like that. Now I just have to figure out what it means to call something a meta-idea.
… I suspect this is going to take a while. Maybe you should go for coffee.