Periodically, I feel compelled to present capricious visitations of ideas—random brainstorms that never make it as complete essays or posts. Maybe somewhere in these 25 openings is a longer composition, but they seemed complete almost before I finished expressing them…
1. When it comes time to write another post, I often have only the first line, and everything unreels from it.
2. One impulse from childhood has never left me—if I see a branch barely hanging from a tree, or find a hole not quite punched out of a page of loose leaf, or hear a song nearing its end as I leave a store, or notice a speck of lint on a woman’s black sweater, or encounter a gate just ajar—well, you get the idea.
3. As you grow older, you change enough to think your memories might belong to someone else.
4. In third grade, I was always afraid classmates heard when my teacher called me up to her desk to tell me to smile.
5. People sometimes imply I’m not grateful enough—I don’t miss their hints and I don’t think they’re wrong—but agreeing doesn’t seem to get me far.
6. Here’s a list I’ve been idly compiling recently—foods that are just too laborious to eat.
7. Sometimes I imagine famous writers looking over my shoulder as I compose my posts, and they are almost always full of disdain.
8. Whenever someone pauses for comments, or asks some assembly whether anyone has an announcement, or if I visit a place with a guest book waiting for my name, home, and some short note, I’m always tempted to paraphrase Nabokov’s Pale Fire, “There’s a very loud amusement park across from my present dwelling”—for some reason, that sentence is, reliably, the first thought passing through my mind.
9. I’d love to write about the great abiding things in life—stars and seasons, small talk and people in cars glancing my way, the sudden smile of someone who’s just had a revelation or eyes cast down or away—but I wonder if I could make them interesting again.
10. Has anyone who wanted to be funnier ever managed to become so?
11. Perhaps a valuable object is among items I’ve squirreled away in disused drawers and boxes in boxes, but I didn’t put them there to save them—I wanted them out of my sight.
12. My peculiar brand of egotism includes believing I’ve got the market cornered on laments, that no one can speak to feelings of inadequacy better than I can.
13. The other night, when I couldn’t sleep I tried to remember places I only visited once and discovered how very many such places there are.
14. Reading poetry always makes me want to write, and sometimes I don’t finish a poem, half-afraid it will get to what I want to say.
15. Is it terrible that I think humans might have had their chance?
16. All my life I’ve been saving material for the one time I’m allowed to write about having nothing to write about.
17. I use so many analogies in my daily conversation I’ve tried to come up with an analogy for why they seem so useful.
18. It’s occurred to me that not being able to play a single card in solitaire may be far more rare than winning.
19. Once someone asked me, “If you were in an airplane of famous poets, and it was going down, sure to crash, and there was only one parachute left, what poet would you give it up for?” I still don’t have an answer because I can’t get past visualizing the hypothetical.
20. My conversation and writing abound with phrasing and vocabulary I’ve encountered (and reencountered and reencountered) in books and poems I’ve taught, and I keep hoping someone notices.
21. Track workouts in high school taught me how to count tortures. “After this lap,” I told myself, “I can say ‘after this one, I can say, “after this one, one more.”’”
22. “Familiarity breeds contempt” and “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” so I’ve been studying the right moment to get lost.
23. One of my students asked me if I thought I had “a novel in me,” and I wish I’d considered how she’d react before I answered, “Sure, I’m a sack of novels just waiting to rip open.”
24. I’d like to assemble all the people I care about (but lost track of) so I can apologize.
25. In middle school a forensic event called “Extemporaneous Speaking” taught me you can always find something worthless to say.