February 24, 2003
Big ideas and how to have them – target readers – and the silliness of the sound in Star Wars

Reading this piece by Alice today (the archiving is up the spout, so just go there and scroll down) has only made me that bit more confused, because everything she says about the wisdom of having long term goals and hanging on to them is true, but I'm still struggling to clarify the long terms goals I have for Brian's Culture Blog. Alice told me yesterday that she thought that as soon as this blog was going, it would just pour out like something horrible from the rear end of an unkindly fed farm animal (not her words but that was the thrust). Yet it hasn't happened. Maybe this is the turning point. Don't know. What am I trying to achieve here? Okay so I know about Mies van der Rohe (see below). But who else cares that I know and what I know about such persons? What am I trying to do?

Is it spreading libertarianism by proving that we libertarians are dead cultural really, and don't only like Star Wars and heavy metal? But the more I think about this, the less I care about it. It really doesn't matter if libertarians only like Star Wars. What matters is whether they (we – and that might be a clue, that I put they instead of we) are right about how the world should be.

So is it me trying to prove that I like other things besides Star Wars? Actually I don't much like Star Wars at all, any more. I find now that I can't allow myself to get excited about movies where sound is portrayed as travelling through a vacuum. The people who made these movies (or the people who told George Lucas how he was going to have to make these movies, or whatever) were not, when they started out, being serious. It's one thing to get something wrong because you forgot it, or didn't realise that people in those days never wore clothes like that, or that the date of that was whatever it was rather than what you said. It's quite another to get it wrong on purpose, and not care, the way they did with all the noises in Star Wars. But so what? Who cares what I think of Star Wars? Why on earth do I think it matters?

One thing I do know is that it's not me in general, because I in general am writing all kinds of things for other blogs, even as I still struggle with this one.

Tip for writers, which I am now trying to apply to myself. When you are suffering from writers block, which in a moderate form is what is afflicting me here. Try to get it clearer in your mind who you are writing for, and what you are trying to say to them. For example, when I was only writing pamphlets for the Libertarian Alliance, I would often get this wrong to start with, and find that I couldn't write whatever it was. Then I would refocus on my audience, and restate to myself what I wanted to say to these particular people, and when that was done, suddenly out it would all come, and the job would have its back broken in about an hour and a half.

It often helps, when writing something, to actually put at the very start who you have in mind as your target readership. If you are writing for hardcore libertarians, and trying to say something to them, then put that. If, on the other hand, you are aiming the piece at the "intelligent layman", again, put it, and if the hardcores get bored with all the obvious things you are saying to these uninitiates, tough, you've already dealt with that. Once you've put that, you can then get on with writing for the people you are writing for.

But who are my target readers here? I don't yet have it clear in my mind.

Maybe I'm the target reader. Maybe that's the obvious point I'm missing here. Maybe all I really want is a diary that I can read in ten years time, to tell me what I was thinking about just now, and to hell with the rest of you people. Maybe that's the story here.

Final thought. I recently read what I thought was a very good book about How To Have Ideas (called, if I remember it rightly: How To Have Ideas – something along those lines anyway). It said that you have ideas by first doing lots of good but open-minded thinking, where you struggle as best you can to lay out the problem, and to hurl as many notions down on the table that might be steps towards an answer.

Then, and this was the intriguing bit, you forget about it. You think about it, then forget, and do something else. And then, in its own seet time, the answer to what you were previously agonising about presents itself to you.

I'm still at the hurling of ideas onto the table stage with this blog. And maybe that's what I should do for the next few weeks, just fling postings up here, written in all kinds of different modes and aimed at all kinds of different fantasy target audiences, until suddenly – ping!!! – I get it clear what I'm doing.

Anyway, enough for now. That may or may not have helped, but the How To Have Ideas book said that at this stage in the process, all ideas are okay, however confused or however seemingly wrong.

I've just read the first comment from "emma" on Alice's piece, and she says more pithily something a lot like what I've just said.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 02:44 PM
Category: MoviesThis and thatThis blog