I’ve lost my idea net.
For more than a year, I’ve carried a small, black Moleskine and a pen to, theoretically, record all my creative ideas so I don’t “lose” any of them and can use them later. At first, I faithfully used it every day to capture every crazy, wild idea that popped into my head. Some of them were actually not bad. Well, the whole “Biblical zombie army vs. a modern Templars” thing that came to me in the middle of scripture at church had some real potential. Honest! But, I will grant that some of the junk that built up there like chaotic, creative sedimentary rock was just silly. Even that was okay, though, because it might have been mined for comedy gold at some point.
The real problem was that they never left that notebook.
See, that’s the thing. I was great at recording the crazy ideas, but, frankly, I was terrible at getting them past that point. It was great that I could get them down and feel like I wasn’t losing them to my Swiss-cheese, middle-aged brain, but, what’s the point? I mean, if I never take those ideas and bring them to full-fledged projects. Honestly, I’d settle for incomplete projects at this point, because even that would be something more than just scribbled fragments of plot, or character sketches or even just semi-random titles. It would be progress toward something.
Look, I dream of being “creative”. I fantasize about it like a day-dreaming school-boy. I practically fetishize it! But, it’s gotten to the point that I’m not even sure what I mean any more. I know that ideas swirl around me like a swarm of gnats on a hot Texas night. There’s an endless supply! All I have to do is swat them!
What’s the missing ingredient? In a word, execution.
Ideas are great and all, but what good do they do? Everyone has ideas. Ask any author and they’ll give you seemingly endless stories about fans who come to them with the same crazy plan. The fan as a “brilliant idea” that they’ll “give” to the author, who will do all the grunt work of actually, you know, writing it up into a story, and for that invaluable “gift” the fan will split the proceeds with the author, who, of course, has the easy part of the deal.
But, anyone who actually does bring ideas from their raw state to a finished product knows that it’s just the opposite. Ideas are free for the taking. All you have to do is reach into your subconscious and fish one out. The real trick is making them happen. Taking anyone of those ideas and actually executing them, actually developing an end-product, is the real skill that separates a dreamer from a true creative.
So, now, I’ve got a choice. I can get another notebook to endlessly fill with loose ideas, that may never actually get turned into something worth sharing. Or, I can start focusing on actually producing something.
I’ll be honest, I’m not entirely sure how to make the shift, but I want to do more than just fantasize about creating. I suppose I should follow the advice I give other people who are stuck and just be willing to make some bad starts so that I can eventually get to creating something I’m happy to share.
Sometimes, it’s better to make a bad start than not to start at all.