The sheer power of unfinished thoughts

I think one of the most difficult things, as far as thinking goes, is giving oneself the license to think one’s most powerful and impactful thoughts. We tend towards obsessing too much over what everybody else is thinking and understanding that thinking than striking out on our own, unfettered by the limitations of our fellow beings.

This is why I love unfinished thoughts or half-assed thoughts. There is a certain power in letting oneself go and swimming through ideas rather than attempting to piece them together. I think it’s at the edge of one’s own thoughts and logical frameworks that we get a chance to surf on ideas. And at this edge, at the tip of those waves, ideas look messy, stupid and certainly unrefined. And this is where I want to broadcast my thoughts and ideas, sometimes, because there is a space here to be wrong or innovative or stupid. A comedian has to try a million jokes before he finds a few hundred that he can turn into a Netflix Special.

That Netflix Special is a distillation of a comedian’s best jokes after a long period of trial and error. Some jokes are seeds, which eventually become full on trees, a full 5-minute bit. Other jokes are dead on arrival, never able to see the light of day again. This is part and parcel of the journey of a comedian.

The same is true for thinkers. Great thinking teeters precariously at the edge. It seems weird, it seems offbeat. Sometimes it even comes off as offensive. Indeed, sometimes it isn’t taken seriously for decades or centuries. And there are times when these half-baked ideas are only the beginning of great thoughts, lighting a candle that goes out before it casts any shadows. And once in awhile, you have that wild thought that strikes out and grasps the heart of a matter by the balls. And all that surfing, turned out to be worth it.

Turning premises into stories

Aspiring to be a science fiction writer coming from a background as a tech journalist is daunting for me. With tech news, you follow your nose into startup methodologies, product interfaces, and the latest trend of what everyone is talking about. The stories tend to write themselves because all it takes is a press release or an interview for the punchline to become readily apparent. Although it’s very difficult to become a Pullitzer-prize winning journalist, which requires an investigative eye and a true panache for the craft of writing, just doing journalism is not nearly as hard as crafting stories out of thin air.

But the trouble for me has never been the lack of ideas and premises. Indeed, little and big conversations play a strong part in randomly inspiring new ideas and worlds that I love to think about. Language is also something that I love to play with. I used to write poetry and essays during the university years and that has poured out into a love of language. The twists and turns of words continue to weave around my head.

The difficulty has been writing and imagining characters that speak to me, as if from an unknown universe that really does exist. Characters don’t yet call to me. They don’t talk to me as if they were real. And they don’t know my name. They feel rather like objects I need to chisel at slowly over time. That tells me I essentially don’t know what makes a character tick.

But I would like them to. I find myself flipping through pages of notes and drawings of worlds, fantasies, and menageries of ideas. I find myself staring at blank pages. I find myself looking into the abyss. But characters do not crawl out of these crevasses. And I think this is my greatest fault as a writer. It would be my greatest regret to wake up at 80, and having not written a story that spoke out to me and made me feel confident that a reader would come along and be captured and compelled by that character.

The irony is characters are filled with struggle and here I am struggling to write them. I am my own most boring character. And I beat on into the night.