Somewhere in my latest pocket notebook, in the middle of the page, is a hastily scribbled note that reads:
THE NUMBER OF BLONDES
It is both working title and brain bookmark to an idea for a short story that has been swimming in my head since at least the last week. It was an old idea, but the current form started kicking around in the gauzy background-noise imagination warehouse of my being after a sumptuously talky night out with a friend I hadn’t met in months. Some ideas come in a flash, must be written down, must be captured and nailed into pitifully short, scribbled notes in little notebooks. Others you only notice days or weeks after they’ve already arrived.
And all these ideas may never leave that little notebook page.
Sometimes I will come across an old notebook — or worse, an old To Do list — and see a single name for a writing project among the clutter of crossed-out drawing, email, work entries.
I will stare at it for a minute. The word will mean nothing to my conscious brain. But already in the back there will be the stirrings of a sense memory, the dull echo of the excitement I once felt for that word; a swirling of that gauzy background noise, but not a clue as to what that story or idea was actually about. Confetti strewn on an empty street. Once, that idea must have consumed me. I must have spent hours thinking about it, days planning to execute it, reveling in the clever little turns of plot & dialogue that raced through my brain. At some point I let whatever POLENDRON was slip from my brain, because beginning it wasn’t exciting any more. I may have even begun writing something with regards to it, but either forgot or moved onto another, newer scribble in my then-notepad.
I can complain all I want about never finishing anything, but it’s quite often that I never truly begin things. And when I look back at these things I can’t quite remember, I sometimes wonder if that’s for the best. I would like to imagine a world where I am either absolutely productive, putting to page every single idea I’ve had in immaculate, amazing finished pieces, or absolutely unburdened by these lost projects. I don’t know if I’d like to be the man at the party who never looks up from his smartphone because he’s writing a ripping yarn he thought up in the elevator, or the man at the party who says, “Oh yeah, I have stacks of unwritten novels. I’m a great writer. I have a whole lifetime career of books, if only I’d written them…*”
*(NOTE: I have definitely been this person. If you were on the receiving end, I apologise.)
In either extreme case, I would not be the person who was sitting with my friend that day talking about relationships and dating and expectations, and I would not then go home that night with the background noise necessary to scribble THE NUMBER OF BLONDES into my notepad the following day.
It is quite possible that THE NUMBER OF BLONDES will meet the same fate as POLENDRON. Today, tomorrow, the day after, I may think the premise too flimsy, too pretentious, the lack of an ending already set in stone uncomfortable, and easily set it back out into the noise, replace it with imagining what Star Wars Episode 7 will be like (Oh yes, that just happened). I shouldn’t bother, really, but the imagination always goes where it shouldn’t, and where it is most easily rewarded with the sugary nectar of something old & already well-thought out by somebody else. All the hard work done, just waiting for you to put your own genius spin on things.
But it’s also never yours to lose.