Workable shmerkable, it's all in the delivery


A telekinetic girl goes ape-crazy after getting her first period? What a crappy idea. No wonder the author threw it in the trash. An evil genius assembles a monster from human body bits? Yark! Hideous idea. And the author's husband was a literary lion. Certainly, he was right to throw the manuscript in the fire. And what's the market for a book with a fat, obnoxious protagonist? Worst idea ever. Who could blame the author for despairing? But Stephen King's wife rescued Carrie. Brave Mary Shelley resurrected Frankenstein. And sadly, John Kennedy Toole's heartbroken mom watched A Confederacy of Dunces win a Pulitzer after her son despaired and took his own life. I won't even bother mentioning the scores of agents and editors who told JK Rowling that her ten pound tome about a boy wizard was utterly unworkable.

So what grand moral may we extrapolate from these tales of tragedy and triumph? Perhaps it's that two things separate good ideas from bad: skilled execution and bald faith. Conversely, what damns a good idea to lameness? Hacking execution and lack of balls.

Think about that brilliant idea you just had as the iconic light bulb. Lacking energy, it dims and dies. And that's the easy way out, isn't it? Picking an idea apart, focusing on all the reasons why it won't work -- well, now you're off the hook aren't you? Why invest the effort? It never would have worked. And who cares? It was just an idea. We live in a cynical day and age. Nothing springs so quickly to mind as the negative. The why not. In an effort to bulletproof a manuscript or a proposal or a fragile beginning, we anticipate every snarky, snitty, undermining comment that could possibly be made. But if we cross over to the snark side, who's left to champion that idea?

I've decided that every idea is brilliant. There is no such thing as a stupid idea. Or an unworkable idea. Does that mean every idea warrants unflinching dedication and buckets of energy and time? Of course not. When I finish one project and I'm fishing the pondering pool for another, I like to say I'm dating several ideas but not in a committed relationship with any of them. You gotta kiss a lot of frogs, right?

Once I commit to an idea, I love it with my whole heart. I look for the why instead of the why not. That little light bulb needs all the electricity I can generate. A lot of ideas -- the vast majority -- return to the universe, but something always remains. A whip of dialogue, a character's name, the description of a tree. And when I look at all those not right now (or maybe just not right) ideas I dated, I don't see a pile of crap, I see fertilizer.

The image above comes from the wildly off the wall Toothpaste For Dinner.

Comments

Brilliant post, Joni! Thanks for sharing this.

I know I've gone back and mined failed manuscripts for workable ideas or have gone at the concept from another angle and come up with a sale. Sometimes, it's a good idea, but I'm not ready for it at the time I get it. I lack the experience or the wisdom or the guts to make it right. But later, when I give it another shot (not just tweaking but turning it on its ear and starting over, I find that the time is finally right.
Elen Grey said…
--I've decided that every idea is brilliant. There is no such thing as a stupid idea. Or an unworkable idea. Does that mean every idea warrants unflinching dedication and buckets of energy and time? Of course not. When I finish one project and I'm fishing the pondering pool for another, I like to say I'm dating several ideas but not in a committed relationship with any of them. You gotta kiss a lot of frogs, right?--

I loved this post in general; this paragraph in particular. May I come work with you, Joni? lol

Great cartoon.

Now, back to pondering my own little pile of fertilizer!
Joni Rodgers said…
Hey, we're all in this together, Elen. Thanks for taking a moment to comment.

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