The Thinking Hat


I have written before about not knowing what to write about – it’s what I write about when I don’t know what to write about. It happens surprisingly often. Most days I get home with pockets full of scraps of scribbled-on paper which, when laid out on my desk somehow coalesce into something coherent. Or at least as close to coherent as I ever get. I write pretty much every day and I write twice as much as I need. I have a computer full of ‘Just in case I can’t think of what to write about’ pieces and I do raid them every now and then. I could publish twice the number of blogs I actually do, but I do not do so for two very good reasons:
1. I realise that I already skate upon the perilously thin ice of boring you to death, and doing so on an even more regular basis could very well be terminal for both of us, and…
2. Well, it’s tempting fate isn’t it? I know my brain. The very second I let it into my little secret ‘Listen, we’re easily writing enough waffle to get us through six blogs a week. I think I’m going to go for it.’ It will seize like an outdoor padlock and no amount of WD40 will get it open again.

This is the state into which my cerebrum has currently descended. It does so maybe once a fortnight. It hitches up its drawers and lurches off into its dark corner, pulling the door tight behind it, where it rocks gently back and forth, sucking its thumb and screaming for silence – I hate silence. Sometimes I leave it alone, knowing that by tomorrow it will be back to its old self and spewing out more tripe than I know what to do with, but other times I fear that its hermit days might become permanent and I need to face it out.

Shaping up to the content of one’s own head is not always straightforward. For a start, if it doesn’t want to come out to play, it isn’t always easy to make it. Coffee will sometimes drag it out; chocolate or whisky (all three if it is being unusually intransigent) but flushing the bloody thing out into the open isn’t guaranteed to make it co-operate. Sometimes it sulks like a five-year old child, swallowing its Lego so that it can’t possibly eat broccoli, sometimes it just stares at the wall. And you have to be particularly careful about where the confrontation takes place. What happens inside your head can quite often spill out of your mouth, and that seldom looks good on the bus.

I’ve been writing for many years: sometimes moderately successfully, sometimes less so, but always writing. I was taught long ago that writer’s block does not exist and, although I know very well that it does, I adhere to this mantra. What I was taught to do was to write – it doesn’t matter what – that the very act of writing will spur the brain into action and, after a little cough to clear its throat, it will start to drip gold onto the paper. I know people who routinely throw away the first thousand words they write every day because they know it will be junk. There are days when I would willingly go through their bins. There are many days when the first thousand words I write are the only thousand words I write and, junk or no junk, they are kept for future reference. It’s a bit like being bored to death by a 0-0 draw, but keeping the game on the recorder just in case you somehow missed a goal, despite the fact that you know the final score.

Now, I must ask you to indulge me here, I am not prone to navel gazing: it has never really helped me and anyway, I can’t do it without a mirror these days. What I am currently gazing at is (are?) my finger nails. Don’t worry, I have not pulled them out in a fit of pique: they remain attached firmly to my digits. A little too firmly in fact. You see, I have a nail which routinely splits along its length. (Yes, I would love to know why.) It drives me mad, so I have taken to superglueing it together. And, yes, I know you are miles ahead of me, what I am currently looking at is a handful of glistening finger nails, attached to fingers with which I dare not pick up anything. I cannot decide what to do with them. I cannot, for instance, type into Google ‘What should I do with a handful of superglue?’ knowing that I will get no further than ‘W’… and I do not want to become any more firmly attached to the keyboard than I already am. I dare not run them under the tap, as I’m pretty certain that it will just set my fingers in such a manner that to separate them will mean that I have to succeed where Al Capone failed; by removing my own fingerprints. I have no idea of the depth of skin on a finger, but I’m pretty certain that set superglue goes deeper. Anyway, what I am currently doing is watching it as it dries and typing, as best I can, with my one unaffected pinkie.

Ah yes, and there is one more thing you need to know. I am wearing a hat. It is my thinking hat. It didn’t start off as my thinking hat, you understand. It started off as my hat. I have a head that is generally unsuited to titfers, but I found this one last year and I liked it: my wife didn’t object too strongly and only one of my children refused to be seen with me whilst I was wearing it. So I wore it. However, spring has now unfurled into summer and a much lighter hat has become de rigueur. My grey felt hat has taken up residence in my office and I have developed a habit of wearing it whenever I am searching for an idea. Due to the finger-issue I have been unable to remove it. I do not want to take it with me wherever I go, so, on my head it remains until my fingers have dried. Still, it’s not all bad. It has given me the germ of an idea…