Wednesday, August 14, 2013

An Idea!

I think I may have had an idea!

But SSSSSHHH! I don’t want to scare it off. Ideas are like little birds that way.

This is not just an idea. I don’t waste your time telling you about every idea I have, like the time I conceptually invented the telephone only to then realize that I had come up with an idea that someone else had had a hundred years ago.

This is a writing idea!

See, I have been wanting to work on a small novel, both because I have some time right now and because I would like to knock something out before school starts and before I lose all of my free writing time. Only I didn’t have an IDEA!

To be clear, I have a ton of little ideas: moments, visuals, descriptions, all the stuff that one keeps in the mental tool box, but I didn’t have the unifying IDEA that I needed. I was lacking that one central thing that you tell people about when they ask what you’re working on.

Well a few days ago I was having lunch with my friend Mike The Director and we were riffing on Ashton Kutcher for some reason and we determined that whenever people do something awful or rude or embarrassing in public they should immediately run away while yelling, “I’M ASHTON KUTCHER!” and that over time this would catch on and it would be something that people just do and poor Ashton Kutcher would keep getting questioned by the cops:

COPS: Did you pee in this woman’s rose bushes last night?
AK: No.
COPS: Did you shave this man’s dog last night?
AK: No.
COPS: Did you steal all of the salsa from that Rubios?
AK: No.
COPS: Then why did the thief run out screaming, ‘I’m Ashton Kutcher’?
AK: Because that is something people have started doing.
COPS: Oh, like as karmic retribution for Punk’d?
AK: I guess …
COPS: That’s kind of funny actually.

Whether you find this funny or not, what I think is interesting about it is the idea that identity theft can be used to add to one’s life rather than just steal from it. Also, I have always kind of thought that there is some sort of existential story telling potential in the idea of identity theft. And I’m not just talking about that episode of Friends when Monica’s identity is stolen by a woman who makes Fake Monica far more interesting than Real Monica, though there is something to that too.

We live in an age of digital paranoia and existential dread and I think that modern identity theft is a pretty good emblem of that. Also, it offers the opportunity to explore the nature of the lives we lead and what makes us us. What is life? And what is our experience of it? And in a time when the abstraction of a credit score is arguably more important than interpersonal behavior, what the hell are we doing?

If it seems like these are just a bunch of poorly-formed ideas and questions, that’s because they are. Like I said, I am just now having this idea. But I am a little excited. See, when you’re looking to embark on a piece of writing of a respectable length (say something in the 50k word count range) your central idea is going to be like a christmas tree; it needs to be tall and stable and with many branches. You’re not going to use all of the branches, but they need to be there. You’ll hang things on some of the branches. These are the little ideas, the moments, the visuals, the descriptions that I was talking about before. If you do it right then when you’re done you have a coherent whole and you can step back and say, “Yep, that is a pretty good christmas tree.” Or not, depending on whether or not you have fucked the whole thing up. BTW, it is shocking how many ways there are to fuck up.

Anyway, I think that I have the beginning of an idea. The sort of idea that I can hang all of the other ideas on. This is exciting.


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