Why did it all turn out like this for me? I had so much promise. I was personable, I was bright. Oh, maybe not academically speaking, but … I was perceptive. I always know when someone’s uncomfortable at a party. It became very clear to me sitting out there today, that every decision I’ve ever made, in my entire life, has been wrong. My life is the opposite of everything I want it to be. Every instinct I have, in every area of life, be it something to wear, something to eat … It’s all been wrong. – George Costanza
This morning I started panicking about work. This afternoon, I sat in a field and stared at sheep and black pigs and dry stone walls and tried to stop panicking about work. I think I got somewhere. I realised that, like George Costanza, I should do the opposite of what I’ve been doing. Rather than thinking about the sort of features that I want to write, I’ve begun to think of the title of a feature and then watch everything else slink into place. A breakthrough, perhaps.
Earlier today – in the field – I spent ten minutes trying to work feature ideas around the title of so-so news quiz Have I Got News for You. Here’s what I came up with:
1. Have I Got Views For You: The top 9* open top bus journeys in the UK.
2. Have They Got Views for You: I revisit the work of some of the most well-known and well-paid columnists in the country – Richard Littlejohn, Jeremy Clarkson, Julie Burchill, Jan Moir etc. – to see if there is consistency and belief in the offensive, hinky bullshit that they spout or whether they just come up with stuff to get attention and make more money.
3. Have They Got Views Whilst I’m Looking at Views for You: As above, but I conduct all of my research on open top buses.
4. Have I Got Shoes For You: When I was married, I used to enjoy buying my wife shoes and dresses. I’ve enjoyed buying shoes and dresses for girlfriends, too. In fact, although I don’t really want a new wife of girlfriend just yet, I sort of would like one so that I could buy her shoes and dresses. Is this normal? I could write about this, and other men who like to do this.
5. Have I Got Screws for You: A year-long weekly column about my attempts to sleep my way to the top of the journalism industry. The best bit will be when I try to give Alan Rusbridger a handjob in a public toilet.
Alan Rusbridger, possibly getting a handjob, earlier.
6. Have I Got Snooze For You: Research by NASA suggests that a 20-minute nap during the day increases mental sharpness and productivity, and has a favourable effect on mood. Could we see a situation in the future where companies actively encourage sleeping at work? Probably not, but I could write about it.
7. Have I Got Pews for You: An investigation into church attendance and whether the decline can be halted.
8. Have I Got Ewes for You: God knows. Farmer’s Weekly?
9. Have You Got Eyes for Two: I’ve no idea what this would be about, either. It was a long and heavy weekend. (And I haven’t even touched upon booze/crews/cruise/boos and so on. You can have those. Do what you want with them.)
But hopefully you see my point. And although I’ve been capering about up there a bit, there are one or two strong ideas – the getting a girlfriend just so I can buy her clothes, the sleeping at work – that I could work on and pitch this evening. I probably will do. And that’s just from a 10-15 minute brainstorming session. (If I ever write ’10-15 minute brainstorming session’ ever again you have my permission to kill me.)
Anyway, please try it and let me know how you get on. It doesn’t, incidentally, work with the next batch of films/television programmes I thought of (Back to the Future, Newswipe, The Karate Kid, Countdown, The Big Lebowski), but sort of works with Dude, Where’s My Car? and Last of the Summer Wine.
*According to a friend who is the assistant ed at a fitness magazine, putting ‘9 Ways to Get Better at Whatever’ leads to higher sales than ’10 Ways to Get Better at Whatever’. Or, indeed, any other number. Some world we live in, isn’t it?