Most of you probably don't live in a place where you experience this, at least not on a daily basis, but tar bubbles up out of the ground here. Weird. I know. But I see it every day.
Now before you go thinking I'm talking about the whole Los Angeles, area. I'm not. Well, at least I assume I'm not. I'm just talking about my little corner of weirdo paradise. A little strip know as the Miracle Mile. You've heard of it in the movies, you've read about it in books - specifically those of Raymond Chandler. It's like those other iconic L.A. locations: the Sunset Strip, Hollywood and Vine, Rodeo Drive.
Another famous L.A. landmark is the La Brea Tar Pits. The tar pits, see, they're right on the Miracle Mile. That's a two for one for all you tourists out there. I see both of them every day. My day job is on the Mile. All right, smart aleck...in a building on the mile. In fact, if I stand up from my desk in the cube farm and look out the window, I can actually see the main pit across the street. It's not easy to miss. They've got a family of staged mammoths to demonstrate the dangers of the pits.
The tar pits are a part of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) complex. Surrounding the pits is a beautiful grass park. I walk through that park almost every day. What I've noticed over time is that occasionally tar starts bubbling up in unexpected places. There are two new miniture eruptions right on my path in the middle of a large grass expanse.
The tar got me to thinking about ideas. And how ideas pop up at any time from unexpected places. It could be someone we see walking down the street. It could be a news story we read. It could something we've heard from a friend. Or it could be something that pops into our heads for no apparent reason at all. (For a more detailed post about the genesis of an idea, read Jeffrey Cohen's excellent and hilarious entry at Murderati from June 4.)
I marvel at that process. I love that moment an idea hits me. There's nothing like it. These idea moments happen to everyone. I mean EVERYONE. Someone might swinging their cart around a corner at a super market when they have an idea that shows them the exact ratio of acceloration to turning angle they need to win the Indy 500. Someone might be searching blindly for the snooze button when they come up with the idea that planting a bougainvillea in a certain spot would be the perfect touch to their front yard. Or someone might be having breakfast with someone they're not particularly fond of and realize that writing a story about a serial killer that targets cereal tycoons would be great.
Perhaps the first person could become a world class race driver, the second a successful landscape architect, and the third a published author.
But it's just as likely that these three would become none of these things.
Getting the ideas is just the first step. It's what we do with these ideas that determine our paths. Let me repeat: It's what WE (you and I) do with these ideas that determine our paths. If we don't, it'll just be a lot of woulda, shoulda, coulda. If you want to be a writer, then you take the ideas and you write. Doesn't matter where they came from. They're going to bubble up in unexpected places. You're job is to do something about them, not just say, "Hey, look at that. That would make a good story," and then move on.
Ideas are great. But they remain only ideas, until you act.
What are you going to do with your ideas?