Ideas are Cheap but Not Worthless

Every day, several new ideas pop into my head. Many of them are incomplete, or frivolous and not very good. Occasionaly – let’s say once or twice a week – something genuinely fun, useful or with potential turns up. However, most ideas go to waste or are merely jotted down in a journal or a text document.

There is an overflow of ideas, to the point where even good ones are sometimes forgotten.

You probably get a lot of ideas too. Maybe it’s a business you want to start, a hobby you might pick up, a book you could write, a party you want to throw or a series of videos you could put on YouTube. Ideas come at us constantly whether we welcome them or not (in fact, they seem to come more easily when we are not looking for them, but that’s another topic).

The point is that ideas on their own have very little value.

It’s only when we act on our ideas, that their value increases. Whether you measure value in potential income, happiness or what-have-you, an idea by itself is fleeting; just a thought or a scribble. Actions make ideas real, give them substance and depth.

Caffeine and sugar are excellent idea stimulants, should you ever run low.
Caffeine and sugar are excellent idea stimulants, should you ever run low.
Since there are only have 24 hours in a day, and most of us have limited resources, the trick is to analyze your ideas, and determine which ones to act on, which to scrap, and which ones might be better off in someone else’s hands. This takes practice, which is sometimes referred to as “failure”.

Sharing ideas is not a bad thing. When you share ideas, you inspire others to get involved, to help you make it real or to develop their own ideas. Creative thinking is contagious, you see.

Too many people guard their ideas for no good reason. Secrecy can be necessary or helpful if you’re in the process of creating something for a competitive market (this is why we have NDAs). However, one reason I’ve heard over and over goes along the lines of: “I keep my idea a secret in case I want to make it real some day, so no one beats me to it.”

If that is your only reason to sit on an idea, you are not doing anyone any favors. Set it and yourself free, and go with an idea you can make real right now, rather than “some day”.

This post was inspired by an idea I had earlier today. This was for a video adventure game made for mobile devices. After writing down my initial thoughts, I read through them and realized this would be “some day” project. Mostly because it is too much work for me to do by myself, and I don’t have a team of developers, artists and writers standing by. So I decided to share the idea instead.

Maybe someone will make it happen, which I would love, whether I am involved in the process or not. I don’t think my idea is revolutionary, but it could be a solid, fun and potentially profitable game – if executed right. Continue reading “Ideas are Cheap but Not Worthless”

How I Became a Storyteller

Sometimes people ask me why I do so many different things. Secretly, I’m sure some of them wonder how I can possibly be good at any of them, and in my darkest moments I have asked that same question. On most days however, I take pictures, write, code, compose, sketch and make videos without mentally separating them from each other.

I call myself a storyteller. I’m not trying to sound pretentious, it’s just the best description I have found. Because it’s always about the story.

What is a story then? They are essentially about our basic values, right and wrong, life and death, love and hate. The story makes its point by taking the audience for a ride, it evokes emotion and sparks imagination, all fitted into some kind of structure or frame.

Often the point is a message; a song that says she loves you, an ad that says buy this product, or a speech that says make good art. Other times the point is to ask a question, and leave the audience to ponder it (religious texts are full of stories like these), or even dare them to prove it wrong. Conflict and resolution gets us interested and keeps us vested, but that is just a vehicle, not the destination.

I used to be extremely frustrated by having “too many interests”, and in a way I did have too many — because there was no focus. One day I sat down, listed every one of my interests out, and started looking for commonalities. And there it was – The Story – staring right back at me. Once I centered on story, my creative efforts started aligning like planets around a star. The Story is the star, and the rest are just tools to help tell it. I don’t have too many interests after all; just one.

I love stories. I love finding them, crafting them and telling them. It’s what I do.

Final Prophecy Update and Finishing Things

The second draft of my fantasy short is done. I’ve written about “The Final Prophecy” before, but I will add that finishing the second draft was tougher than expected. When I got to the last chapter and a half, I stalled. That’s usually a good sign, because the harder it is for me to finish something, the more I’ve loved working on it. So much so, I don’t want it to end. Luckily, I eventually got tired of procrastinating and went back to work.

The next step is more revision. Editing used to scare me, but now I see it as a chance to polish and tweak where needed – and in the worst case scenario spot a dud before I send it out into the world. Finishing the second draft is still a milestone worth mentioning, because this is the part of the process where I involve a few trusted readers. They are the Wise Ones who point out where the holes are, and the inconsistencies as well as the gems and the exciting stuff. Their feedback provide the setup for writing draft three.

There is also inspiration coming from the gaming campaign, I’m running parallel to the writing. We just finished running an adventure set a few years after the events described in “The Final Prophecy”, but in much the same location, and some of the questions posed by the players as part of our game, provided excellent fodder for the story. Details about the daily life, geography and mythology that had not crossed my mind before.

And it doesn’t end there. I recently read two excellent pieces that helped kick me back into writing mode. One is an interview with Stephen King by Neil Gaiman. The insight into King’s process and approach was highly motivating to me. Then I read Second Drafts are a Way of Life by Ryan Macklin, the timing of which could not have been better. Both are recommended reading to any writer.

Now I’m going to take a short break from the story, while I filter it out to the Wise Ones. And in the meantime, I hope to ride the wave of finishing things, and get my arcade iPhone game – Nebula Rescue – done and out the door.