Where do you get your ideas, people ask writers.
I can’t answer for all writers. I can only answer for myself, today, right now, as I write this essay.
Ideas come to me from little things. I’ll look at a guitar pick, and think “yeah, guitar pick. I can write a little essay about that.”
Then I’ll think about what it is that I can write about a guitar pick, and how it has something to do with something bigger.
Okay, I say to myself, a guitar pick is an accessory. Each guitar pick is different. The heavier the pick you get, the more likely it is that you play single note leads, because heavy picks work well for those. And if you saw away on a guitar the way that I do (I know no leads, and only a few chords, but playing drums since I was ten means that I can strum well enough), you get a light pick.
The pick that I enjoy using at the moment it a Dunlop Tortex Red, which has a thickness of .5 millimeters. It makes a sort of shucking sound when I drag it across the strings, and when I’m practicing without an amplifier, the sound of the pick dragging across the strings is almost as loud as the actual chords I’m playing.
At this point, I suppose I could write an essay about how there’s a difference between the way things sound when they come from us, and the way they sound when they get to someone else. I could then talk about how when I wear headphones and really crank my amp, all I hear is the chords, because it drowns out the shucking sound of the pick.
I suppose at that point, I could talk about how it would be good if we could really do this with our actions. How nice it would be if we could see the effect our words and actions have on others before speaking those words or doing those actions. It would save the world a lot of hurt.
Something that I’ve noticed is that there’s often a world of difference between the energy we put into our words and actions, and the effect that they have on others. We’ll do some huge favor for someone, and they barely notice it. Meanwhile, we’ll say a cutting remark that took no effort, and find out that it had a devastating effect on someone.
Fortunately, there’s one saving grace to this: the difference between the effort we put into kindness, and the effect that this kindness has on others.
We all have the following childhood memory that goes something like this:
It’s the day before Mother’s Day, and we’re walking home. There’s a drug store on the way home. Oh, yeah, we remember, it’s Mother’s Day tomorrow.
So we go into the drugstore, and buy a Mother’s Day card. We write something like “because I love you,” and sign it.
This takes almost no effort whatsoever.
Then we give the card to Mom, and she starts crying and hugging us, saying it’s the most beautiful thing in the world.
I think of this when I play my guitar, because the lame shucking sound of my pick over the guitar just doesn’t sound like it’s doing much. Yet when I listen to my cranked up amp through headphones (not just to hear the output, but also so that I don’t antagonize my neighbors), I hear that this seemingly lame action is bringing out the roaring sound that I’m looking for.
Sometimes, I think to myself, it just doesn’t require a whole lot of effort to make a big impression. And perhaps, if we simply remembered this, we could think about how small kind words and actions are not small at all when they make their way to the intended recipient. They can often make that person’s day.
So that’s it. That’s one of the ways I get my ideas. In fact, it led to that story about guitar picks that I posted last week.
Hmmm, I think to myself, now there’s an idea for my blog in general. Write more about writing, and often, write about working on that story that I post on Friday, so that people can see the writing process.
Again, as in so much of the good things that comprise a good life: it’s about the little things.