Sunday, June 13, 2010

Next year, for sure…

I think that just about everyone in the world has that one 'big idea'. It doesn't matter if it's an idea for a novel, a screenplay, a painting or anything…everyone has that 'big idea' and everyone thinks it's going to be absolutely awesome.

…when they, you know, eventually get around to making it.

I know, you can't be expected to just start on an idea like that… after all, you're really busy right now, or maybe you don't have the equipment or resources necessary. Even then there's probably too much going on in your life right now to give it the attention it deserves. Maybe next year when things have calmed down a little.

Ze Frank called it 'Brain Crack'.

Basically, as long as your idea only exists in your head, it's going to be perfect forever. You can dream about the day you finally create it and how everyone will be absolutely blown away. The problem is that, in reality, your idea will only ever be absolutely perfect in your head… so you want it to stay there.

The simple truth is that the first time you try and do anything, you're going to suck at it. In Malcolm Gladwell's book 'Outliers', he said that all 'genius level' creators had one thing in common: roughly 10,000 hours worth of practice. So the idea that your first attempt and writing or painting, or even your tenth or twentieth is going to be perfect is pretty doubtful, to say the least.

So as a result we sit on our ideas. It's better the hold onto the fantasy that, when we get around to it, we're going to write the world's greatest novel rather than actually try and prove ourselves wrong. We don't create in order to protect the idea, which to my mind is like trying to become the world's greatest parent by never having children.

Here's the thing: The writer who actually writes and turns out five mediocre short stories has exactly five times the experience of writing than the guy still sitting on his perfect idea…and no matter how terrible those short stories are, they're still a million times better than your 'big idea', because they actually exist. They may not be great to read, but the act of writing them and the feedback the writer got from them has made him a better writer.

But you still don't want to, right? That big idea is your 'baby' and you don't want to make it until you can do it justice.

Well, here's the big thing you don't realize. 'Big ideas' are ten a penny. The only reason you haven't realized his yet is because your 'big idea' has been stopping you from coming up with any others. Your idea is so 'perfect' that you ignore any other ideas or inspiration because the new idea is never going to be as good as your original 'Big Idea'.

Think of it this way. Imagine if Stephen King had sat on the idea for 'Carrie' for his whole life, waiting until he felt he could do it justice…or more precisely, had sat on the thousands of crappy short stories he wrote before he was successful that he never managed to sell. Ideas are free…you don't get just one…and your favorite artists in any category didn't write their big successes on their first try. 'Overnight successes' take decades to happen.

When you have an idea, the trick is to make it and put it out there as quickly as possible because what you're doing is learning from the experience and making room for the next idea. Also, never tell anyone about your big idea. It's natural to want to share it, but use that drive to share your idea to motivate you into actually making it.

If you have a 'Big Idea', I have some advice:

Just accept that your first attempt is going to suck, or at least not live up to your original expectations…then go ahead, make your idea, accept it for what it is and move on. There's nothing to stop you from going back and trying again when you've got more experience.

As simply as I can put it, it's better to be a terrible (but improving) creator than to be someone who's never made a single thing, but likes to sit back and imagine the applause.

I'm a novice writer, a novice musician and, quite frankly, an absolutely awful painter. However, I'm far better than I was last year…and I'm a million times better than the person who's going to write a short story, is going to learn guitar next year for sure and the guy who's putting off creating his masterpiece oil painting until he can afford the really good brushes.

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