Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Inspiration Machine

Did you know that there are "writing prompts" that help you come up with topics? There are ones for bloggers like Squidoo's, Creativity Portal's imagination prompt, or even one from Writer's Digest, which sounds very prestigous.
They won't work for me. Every single one produces prompts that could never ever ever come up in the context here, all about insane ideas to make the world better. Let me go grab one now:
It has often been said, “Ignorance is bliss,” and “What you don’t know won’t hurt you.” Do you agree with these statements? Why or why not?
Ignorance is bliss insomuch as what you don't know about, you don't worry about. It's one reason why intelligent people tend to be unhappier on average: they can imagine way more ways for everything to go totally wrong. When I was a child, I didn't know about economy, or chemistry, or nutrition. I ate when I was hungry, slept when I was tired. I can't live like that anymore. When I was a young child, I thought it was stupid that commercials often advertised drinks as "100% juice." I could see juice for sale in a million different places, and I didn't see anything special about it. What was this non-juice that could possibly be so terrible? Clearly, advertising "100% juice" meant you were less creative than your competition. Now that I'm an adult, I know. If it's not juice, it's probably ultra-cheap sugar water with some flavoring added so you don't feel completely ripped off. The sugar water will, of course, contain none of the vitamins, minerals, or phytonutrients in juice, but will rot the kids teeth just the same.
On the other hand, what you don't know can and probably will hurt you. If you deny the law of gravity and step off a cliff, you still fall. If you deny seeing the stop light and run through it, you still get a traffic ticket. If you don't know that pressing the button will result in the floor receiving a 10,000 volt charge that will promptly fry you, that doesn't protect you either. If you get hurt because you were unaware of something, the universe rarely does anything other than stop to point and laugh at you. If not knowing truly protected you, then we should ban schooling and live forever as a nation of invincible imbeciles.
It makes a big friction when I read, say, H.P. Lovecraft, who believed that some information was clearly bad for your sanity to learn. His stories are chock full of characters suffering harmful stimulation. This seems patently ridiculous to me -- the only harmful stimulation I know is too intense for your sensory organs, damaging them by excess. Light so bright it burns your retinas, sound so loud that it bursts your eardrums, or touch so hot that you burn your fingertips off. And there are precautions to protect you if you know that this kind of thing is going to happen. When you shoot a gun, it's extremely loud, so you wear ear protection. Wear special sunglasses if you're going to stare at the sun. I also thought when Lovecraft went on his inevitable rants about "the thing that mankind was not meant to know," that he was being a pretentious jackass. (Okay, so this kind of thing is essential to the cosmic horror genre. Everything's out to get you, even if that doesn't make sense.) I know some terrible secrets about the universe, but I can tell you, and you won't go insane:
1. Space is so large as to be practically infinite, and may be truly infinite
2. All but an iota of this is incredibly hostile to Earthly life, such as humans. There is no air. There is intense radiation. There is a distinct lack of gravity. Unless you protect yourself from these things, you die.
3. Therefore, the universe was not made for us. We live in a bubble of unusual properties, vastly different from the norm.
4. Also, most of the universe is indifferent to our existence, and probably not aware, even if parts of it are able to think (ie: aliens)

Still with me? Still sane? Suck it, Lovecraft.

So, if I can't use writing prompts, how would I inspire myself?

I have an idea of a program that, mad libs style, throws together common keywords, combining them in strange and unexpected ways. Most of these will be stupid. (Chemical house sewage pants! thanks.) Occasionally, one will be brilliant, and then I can go write about that. And sometime when I have spare time, maybe I'll actually write this program. What language should I use? Python? Perl?

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