Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Dime a Dozen

"Ideas won't keep. 
Something must be done about them."
Alfred North Whitehead, (1861-1947)
mathematician, logician, philosopher

As author and pool playing expert Robert Byrne once said, "There are two kinds of people, those who finish what they start and so on." You know what he means. It's one thing to have a good idea, it's a whole other thing to follow through with it.

How many times have you been watching late-night infomercials only to discover some bozo took the idea that you've had for years and converted it to pure gold right there for everyone to see at 3:30 in the morning? Oh, you don't watch TV infomercials 3:30 in the morning? I guess it's just me, then, but surely someone along the way has stolen one of your brilliant ideas.

"Everyone is a genius at least once a year.
The real geniuses simply have their 
bright ideas closer together."
physicist, mathematician, astronomer and writer

I don't know whether I'm a real genius or not, but for writers, ideas are our stock and trade. Every once in a while, I get a little nervous that all the good ideas have been taken, but then I remember The Crescent Rod™ shower curtain rod. The first time I saw it, I thought the thing was pure genius. With a simple curved rod, it was now possible to take a shower in a tiny hotel tub/shower combo without that gross, plastic curtain sticking to you with its germs and who knows what all over it. I also remember thinking, damn, why didn't I think of that?

Most of the time, though, ideas aren't my problem. In fact, the ideas never stop. They come in my sleep, while I'm driving, when surfing the Net … sometimes bidden, sometimes not. My problems come in the areas of followthrough, procrastination, and finishing one project before I start something new.

My friend, Ardis Berghoff, has good ideas, but even more importantly, she has transformed her ideas into a cool Etsy business called Foundry Designs. I met Ardis through writing, and now her ideas have lead her into clothing and accessory design, often using found or recycled materials, like her new collection of "Shirtback Dresses", made from recycled men's dress shirts. While I certainly admire Ardis for her vision, the thing that bowls me over his her ability to just go for it.

In the writing world, it's considered bad juju to talk about your ideas or your WIP (work in progress). I'm not sure I buy into that. I like bouncing ideas off other writers and getting feedback. I'm currently working on a new idea and it's exciting. (Nope, not gonna tell ya. The puppy dog eyes will not work this time.) I think it's a great idea (but then, when don't I think my ideas are great?). I think it may even be a lucrative idea, which probably means it isn't.

The thing is, you can't copyright an idea. And besides, it's not really the idea. Ideas, as they say, are a dime a dozen. It's what you do with your idea, the execution of it, that counts. This is the lesson I'm working on now: getting the idea out of me, on paper, and through the process — the whole process: writing, editing, revising, revising, submitting, pitching, revising, revising, publishing (!), marketing and starting all over again. I can do it. The idea is a good one, but it's just the beginning. I know what I have to do, and I know I have to do it before I walk into a bookstore, pick up the latest bestseller, read the jacket flap and say: "Damn. That was my idea."

What brilliant idea did you have that is now being produced by Guthy-Renker for someone else? Better yet, what ideas do you have for getting your ideas out of your head and into the world? Click here to share your successes or missed opportunities.

"Every composer knows the anguish and 
despair occasioned by forgetting ideas 
which one has not time to write down."
Hector Berlioz (1803-1869), composer

Ed. Note: If the curved shower curtain didn't convince you that there are still plenty of good ideas to be had, maybe the square Coke bottle will. This is by far the coolest thing I've seen (today).  4/28/10 9:50 a.m.

Photo credit: Curved Shower Rod by splityarn via a Creative Commons License.


Ardis Berghoff said...

Hey, Susan, thanks for the mention! I've always been an idea person, too. Only a small percentage of my ideas see daylight, but it feels really good when they do. And don't forget, some good ideas are just RECYCLED ideas -- in a good way. Heh, heh.

Carolyn Broughton said...

Great idea-provoking post Susan! ...and I think, as with so many things, the more ideating/brain-storming you do - the more you CAN do. There's something about bringing an idea into the physical that makes more and more ideas want to come out to play!

This makes me think of an Oprah I saw years ago with an author named Richard Brodie. He wrote a book called 'Virus of the Mind: The New Science of the Meme (rhymes with beam). This books talks about how and why we think as we do on the macro level, and it talks about this 'meme' thing -- how a meme is an idea that comes to you because you would be the perfect channel for it. And how if you don't do anything with it - it moves on to someone else who will bring it into the physical - because it's an idea/meme whose time has come.

Susan Bearman said...

Ardis — you've got a jump on the recycling rage. Good luck.

Carolyn — so as I understand you, the ideas are floating around. They find you and you recognize the idea if you are ready and the right person to execute it. Is that the idea? Hmmmm. Fate. Destiny. Devine intervention. Hard work. Creativity. Free will. Hard to know what is really at work behind a good idea.

Beverly Patt said...

The trick is turning that idea into reality - which always (for me) ends up a little different than I imagined;)

Unknown said...

My husband is the idea person in our family...he has lots of ideas for items that he's created and has never been able to market. :-)

Susan Bearman said...

Bev — as someone who has had TWO books hit the shelves in the last six months, it's clear that you have figured out the trick and we should all pay attention to you. (Bev's books are Haven and the just released Best Friends Forever: A World War II Scrapbook. Go forth, purchase and read.

Ciss — My mom and your husband should get together and commiserate over all those unfulfilled dreams.

Esperanto said...

Great idea for a post! (Now why didn't I think of that).

Susan Bearman said...

Fridge — Funny!

Anonymous said...

Hey Susan, liked your post, as always. Made me think. And the square coke bottle and curved shower curtain! Wow!

I have had the rare idea that I was angry that I hadn't acted on when someone else did. It is really, really, aggravating. But next time. . . .

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Yeah, I've noticed that we writers don't talk about our WIP much. And you're right: we should. It's through the flow of ideas that our visions for our stories gel.

And only an idiot would steal a friend's plot. Be inspired by it? The best friends find inspiration. Not theft.

I just wanted to stop in and say thanks for the book recommendations! I'm updating my page with them now.

Doreen McGettigan said...

I have to admit I am often laying awake at 3:30 am watching those infomercials..the guy with the thingy that turns you upside down to supposedly help your back..he is creepy looking..I have not had an inspiration for a product yet..just ideas to write about..but someday..I will think of the next best pet rock or something..

Susan Bearman said...

Susan HG — glad the recommendations were helpful. I agree about writing and inspiration. I love talking about writing almost as much as doing it. Joined Twitter recently and am having a blast with the writing world in that arena.

Doreen — ah, those infomercials will get you every time won't they. Don't go for the next pet rock, though. My husband owns a small pet shop and we wouldn't want to cut into his business. Maybe you could invent the next something that slices and dices.

Mary Driver said...

This is a test...
Please stop by Liminalesque.

Anonymous said...

"This is the lesson I'm working on now: getting the idea out of me, on paper, and through the process..."

This is where having some writer friends comes in very handy. I highly recommend one stern buddy who will impose deadlines, sometimes arbitrary ones, that will keep a project on track. Without my writing partner's deadlines, I probably would have half of several books, but no completed manuscripts!

Best of luck in bringing this project to fruition!

Susan Bearman said...

Kelly — thanks for your good luck wishes. I've been in a couple of critique groups and learned a lot from them, but I'm such an eclectic writer — skipping from genre to genre — that I think having one (or maybe two) critique partners would work really well for me. Stern, of course, very stern.