By Andrew Frame
La la la laaa.
Need an idea for an article.
Dee dee dumm, dee dumm.
One thousand words, give or take... now a month late to the Esteemed Editor.
I hate this. Not so much actual writer’s block, but a loss of what to write about.
One of the difficulties of writing for a trade magazine is that the very subject-theme of the magazine gets autopsied in excruciating detail on such a regular basis that coming up with something new – or at least a fresh take on something old – really makes for a testy afternoon.
Date of publication could be the next issue, or could be months down the road, so the topicality of the piece has to have a shelf life a bit longer than bananas and bread.
So, here I am, a professional wordsmith, and I can’t think of a damn thing to write.
Hey, look. My cat jumped up on his part of my desk. His name is Bandit.
Big fella, quite a bit chunkier than when we found him wandering the docks next to one of the beach restaurants. We put our leftovers in front of him and he wiped out the grouper, veggies, and dessert in minutes. Little bugger stole my heart. We brought him home. Now, he’s one of ten non-human members of our family. The Bride and I have a weak spot for wayward critters.
I’m rambling here... but you knew that, didn’t you? What gave it away?
Discussing my cat in Radio And Production magazine?
Yeah, okay, guilty. Let me see if I can change the subject with some grace.
Dear Lord, please change the subject for me since I am a bit klutzy with finesse at the moment. Thank you.
Anyone in this business can figure out where the title of this column comes from – Notes Off The Napkin – right? It’s when a lazy sales rep gives you a couple of worthless “copy” notes on a napkin from where they just had lunch with the client.
They get linguini and marinara, and you get the napkin they cleaned it up with.
Doo beedoo doo doo beedoo... still can’t think of anything to write for meee and youuu...
My mate Tommie The Creative Director And Morning Show Host is writing a book. Mystery suspense piece set in Antarctica. I get to read the dailies. Perhaps ‘coz he gets to read the dailies from my book-in-progress. His is better, in my opinion. Also much farther... further?... along than mine.
Another mate, Trent, is writing a book, but he doesn’t know it yet. He writes the “...And Make It Real Creative” column for this magazine. I think I suggested one time that he take all his past columns, and publish a book for radio nerds. (Trent, if I didn’t, then consider this my suggestion.)
Somehow these two guys can get the stuff out of their heads and out to the fingertips where they can actually make words and sentences and paragraphs appear on the screen – and eventually make it to publication.
Gary in Canada does the same thing. He’s got some mondo college degree and teaches and wrote a book that I have the privilege of voicing one of the characters for the audio book.
Albert in Canada is a machine. Every time one of us turns around he’s writing an awards show, or a radio spot, or the text boxes for the photos in a home and garden magazine.
And Ric. Oh, Ric. I don’t think any happily married Tex-Mex has ever had to write more scripts for more adult bars than anyone in broadcast history.
Me? I have the bloody Inquisition squeezing syllables out of my cerebrum, and the best I can come up with right now – for the last month, in fact – is what you are presently reading.
I’m aware that there is a big difference between writing thirties and sixties and the occasional telephone message-on-hold (which is nothing more than a string of thirties programmed together), compared to writing a novel, or an audio book, or a breathy narrative of the latest in Maple Leaf exposed beam ceilings.
But, come on, how hard can it be to put a thousand words together in some coherent fashion every thirty days? That’s like writing six :60’s. I used to do that much in the car driving to work!
How far along am I? Seven hundred twenty-seven words? Really? Oh, so like three quarters of the way. All I need to do is continue bobbling along here for another two minutes or so and I’m home free.
Now that I look at it, this composition is strongly resembling the way my wife and I converse. Free verse, no rhyming required. We finish each others sentences, and change topics so quickly you can watch the innards of the topic-transmission fly in beautiful ballistics through the air because neither one of us uses a clutch to shift idea-gears.
It’s like the Six Degrees theory, but on a creative level. Thoughts and words spawning new thoughts and words and bringing back old thoughts and words and conversations and topics weaving through the sky like kites on a windy day.
In my career, it’s also how some of the best commercials, songs, and books get written – or at least started. I’d tell my reps, “You don’t have to write the commercial. Just give me a starter idea. Tell me what you and the client think. Tell me what you both thought would be a ‘good idea’. I’ll take it from there.”
My producers’ guild works that way. Someone gets stuck for an idea, sends a help out on the group mail, and a couple of random ideas – each based on the responders particular experience and personality – float back through the ether.
Often those short starter ideas – the result of past or present conversational weaving and idea-shifting - end up becoming darn fine advertisements.
Creativity itself is often corralling a multitude of random pieces, sorting out the ones you want, resorting them the way you want, and then seeing where you let them take you.
Enjoy the journey.