When I go to bed, I put an eye mask on. I like my room to be inky dark, the kind of dark that'd swallow you up if it had the chance. But it's never going to be completely pitch black in there – not with the red 'standby' light on the TV glaring out into the gloom.
This, as I'm sure you've already twigged, got me thinking. (Let's face it, I couldn't sleep.)
For people who work in the creative industries, there's something of an assumption that people are always 'on'. They wait, poised, ready to take a fledgling idea and run with it at any moment. Ideas can strike without warning and cause a distraction that lasts for days. The alertness creative people have is matched by their ability to turn an off-hand comment into an entire campaign or document.
Now, I don't know about you, but to me that sounds exhausting.
It's true that missing a chance to grab an idea (literally) out of thin air isn't a fun prospect. With Twitter, 24-hour news channels and so on, we're sort of accustomed to not really missing anything. And yet, with such a staggering volume of words and images to take in, we're going to miss something whether we like it or not.
What if, instead of trying to be 'always on', we were 'always on standby'?
Whenever I travel, I try to take a notebook with me. The likelihood of overhearing some snippets of conversation that might be useful is unusually high. The ones who are 'terrified of public speaking' are often not so shy about discussing their GP appointment, family troubles or last meal, simply because they're on a packed bus.
Maybe I'll get a comedy skit out of someone's dodgy pronunciation. Maybe that guy's hair is the kind of hair my fictional protagonist needs. Maybe a quick remark will spark an idea for a blog post – which is what essentially happened with this one.
Being 'on standby' is like hovering in the background instead of having your ear pressed to the wall. You'll probably twig something without having to digest every single thing you hear. And it's not as tough to keep your energy and attention levels up.
Unless you're me. In which case you'll just put the eye mask back on and return to bed...