Updated: Jul 1, 2020
I have some of my best ideas whilst walking.
I’ve asked a lot of other people and they say the same. They say, “Eric, when it comes to your ideas, the best ones result from you having a little stroll.” Nah, I’m just kidding. But I mean other people have told me they have to be doing something else to get a good creative idea. Walking, showering, systematically grooming and abusing children over the course of an illustrious pop career and then paying tens of millions of dollars in out of court settlements to make the repercussions go away — as long as the idea isn’t the focus of what you’re doing, then you have a chance of catching it. If you wanna be startin’ somethin’ creatively but have writer’s block, then you need some sort of distraction to beat it. Shamone.
A creative idea is like an attractive person, you can’t look it directly in the eyes. You approach it with caution, try to interact with it and then apologise for going near it. But if you ignore it from the start, then its pride will be wounded and it will come to you.
I’ve been doing tutoring, because at the moment this blog only provides me with 0% of my income, so I need to do something on the side to make up that other pesky 100%. Anyway, one of the kids I’m tutoring says he gets his best ideas when he’s kicking a football against a wall full of graffiti.
“What kind of ideas do you get?” I asked him.
“I think maybe Ishould draw a penis and a pair of testicles on an abandoned garage one day.”
“Right, okay,” I said. “Let’s just carry on with Pythagoras.”
I’ve been walking and thinking a lot recently. I live round the corner from Kings Heath high street in Birmingham and I walk up and down hoping to catch the next Eric Rushton nugget of genius. The good thing about walking through high streets is that you see life happening. Proper, actual people going about their business, or busy-ness as I like to call it (because sometimes they look busy). There’s people nipping into Poundland, people nipping into Wilko, people nipping into Specsavers. It’s all kicking off.
Little tangent. I actually asked a girl out at Specsavers recently. She was called Mel. What’s Mel short for? Because she has little legs. LOL. The old ones are the best. The new ones have their charm, but there’s no beating the old ones. Whoever came up with that joke must’ve spent many hours walking or showering or abusing kids until that Eureka moment finally came. In fact, talking of Eureka moments, it was Archimedes who first said Eureka when he discovered that the volume of water displaced by a submerged solid is equal to the volume of the solid itself. Was he actually thinking about that problem when he solved it? Nah, he was taking a bath, mate. Cleaning his greasy Greek testicles.
Back to me and Mel though. Or should it be Mel and I? She didn’t think either was appropriate and, if it was up to her, there’s no way our names would be that close together in a sentence — she’d want at least five prepositions (whatever they are) between any instances of our names. She rejected me on the spot. She was (and probably still is) one of those people that help you decide which pair of glasses to buy. She was like, “I think you look good in this pair,” and I was like, “I think I wanna spend the rest of my limited time on Earth with you.” I didn’t say that though; I just thought it. It didn’t occur to me that I could actually ask her out until I’d left.
I was walking back from Specsavers and I thought to myself, “Hey, I should ask that chick out!” Then I told my thoughts to stop shouting. “Use your inside-brain-voice,” I said to myself.
When I had to go back later to pick up my new glasses, I worked up the courage to ask for her number. I was kind of nervous like L. Ron Hubbard when he tried to convince the very first person that Scientology was real – only someone with serious problems would have any faith in me. But I had to do it – Mel was the apple of my eye. I felt like I got one of my 5-a-day just looking at her. If this didn’t work out, I was gonna have to get back on the Granny Smiths again. My three options going forward were: go out with Mel, eat an apple a day, or put up with the prospect of the doctor banging on my door.
I asked for her number and she said she had a boyfriend.
Maybe not all the ideas I have when walking are good ones.
Well actually, Me From The Last Sentence, you’re wrong. Because she also followed it up with a “Thank you for asking” and she said it was the highlight of her day. Even if she was just being nice, now I feel totally fearless when asking girls out. Honestly, bring me a girl and I’ll ask her out. Don’t give a shit mate.
End of anecdote.
Back to my walking and thinking. I must walk up and down Kings Heath high street four times a day just thinking about things. I’m not a psychologist but I reckon the reason I get ideas is because there’s no pressure to have ideas. It’s all just kind of processing in the background while I look around.
It’s not just funny ideas I have. Sad ones too. Because I see sad things happening: like I’ll see a homeless person, sat against a wall, kind of hunched with terrible posture, setting himself up for years of back problems.
“Any change, mate?” He’ll say.
“Well I guess the main thing to change is the shoulders,” I’ll reply. “You want them pulled right the way back and your posture will sort itself out.”
“No, I mean money.”
And I’ll say, “Oh sorry mate, I’m trying to write a blog in my head right now. I don’t have any cash but I’ll send you the link when I’m done.”
“I don’t have the internet,” he’ll say.
Homeless people’s lives are so tragic. Whenever this happens, I make a mental note to print off my next blog and hand it to him. But I always forget. I want to be better, but I’m just like everyone else – hopelessly human.
The sad things I’m thinking about are outweighing the happy things at the moment. Not necessarily sad thoughts about myself, but I’ve been getting bummed out by all the tremendous suffering in the world. And I don’t mean tremendous as in “good”, I mean tremendous as in “big” – like when someone takes a tremendous dump in the toilet. Actually, that’s also ambiguous because some people take quite a lot of pride in the massive pieces of shit they produce: the website ratemypoo.com will attest to that, as will the creators of ITV2’s Love Island. No come on, Eric, settle down, those boys and girls are trying their best.
But our best isn’t always good enough when it comes to being happy. Loads of people seem to be sad these days. Some sad because their lives haven’t turned out how they wanted; some sad because their lives have turned out how they wanted but they’ve then it realised it isn’t enough. It’s a bit of mess. I can see it all in the faces of people on Kings Heath high street. Perhaps I’m just projecting onto them, but I see the same people every day walking around with resting sad faces. Familiar faces going nowhere like in that song Mad World. And maybe listening to that song while I walk does predispose me to sad thoughts, but there’s so much pain. What I didn’t tell you about that homeless person was that after I walked past him he started screaming. All because he couldn’t have instant access to my blog. How sad is that?
One way to find out if people are really sad or if it’s just my projection is to try and attain my own happiness and then see what the world looks like afterwards. I can reassess from a new, happy vantage point. And I’ve been trying to get happy. When I was at a particularly low point last year I got into Jordan Peterson. He has some good practical ideas about getting your life back on track and finding meaning in the world. His YouTube videos helped dig me out of that hole for a bit. But it wasn’t quite enough and it turns out he’s fairly controversial which stressed me out. So then I dived deep into philosophy to try and get some joy. I learned about my main man Nietzsche’s ideas on what a good life is. For him it’s all about embracing life and becoming a kind of Superman. This inspired me for a bit as well but it in the end it all felt a bit abstract.
Around the same time as that I started taking antidepressants. I’d been putting them off as a solution and I think that was mainly because I thought it would be embarrassing if people knew I was taking them – which is pretty mental init? They’ve been one of the best things I’ve done in terms of making sure my mood is much more consistent.
The pills were good, but I was still struggling and looking for answers and the next man who caught my attention seemed to have them: Harry Redknapp. It sounds silly, but he was on I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here this year and he seemed like the greatest role model. He was so chilled out and funny and wise, exactly how I’d wanna be. It was a few months ago when I’d just moved to Birmingham and was struggling to settle in. I’d get home every night from work, nap, then wake up and watch Harry on I’m A Celeb and it would proper cheer me up.
I remember one time all the campmates were having a deep chat about life and Harry said something like, “As long as you can look yourself in the mirror in the morning and think ‘I’m alright’ then that’s all you need.”
Proper great guy.
My latest phase is Stoicism. It’s a philosophy that these Greek and Roman geezers used to practice thousands of years ago and it’s all about not letting external events affect you as much and just controlling what you can. I think that’s what’s gave me the bravery to ask Mel from Specsavers out without worrying about rejection.
Again, it’s been good, it’s helped a lot with some things I struggle with. All these things have, but there’s still something lacking. There’s like a baseline of anxiety. And the more self-help stuff I read, the more I feel worried that I’ll never be happy. I talk to my best mate Joe about it quite a lot. We live together and we were hanging out the other day and I was telling him about all the self-help stuff I’d been consuming and how I still don’t feel like I’m on the right path. I think I then used the word “path” loads more times because he eventually snapped at me:
“Maybe if you stop thinking about your fucking path all the time you’ll be alright.”
Then I cried because it was super embarrassing how annoyed I’d made him by moaning about my shit. My search for happiness had turned me into an unbearable twat.
But now I think maybe he’s right and, although he could’ve been less spiky, he was probably onto something wise. Maybe I shouldn’t get so obsessed with how to be happy, or what my path in life is. Maybe happiness is like a creative idea: if you try and chase it too much it will escape. But if you carry on just putting one foot in front of the other, then one day it might just come to you, out of nowhere. The path to the good life might just be a path you have to walk down rather than analyse from the outside.
And when you’re walking down that path, you might just have a good idea or two.
Anyway, that’s about it.
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