I've noticed a common thread in recent essays and conversations about ideas. When the topic turns to creating something new, the ideas themselves are talked about as commodities of little value.
"Ideas are easy," we're told. "Anyone can come up with ideas. Execution is what matters." An idea that doesn't result in something tangible is a failure. There is a right way and a wrong way to create, and only one is worthwhile.
We sometimes forget about the wonder that comes from false starts and messy mistakes; the joy found in an absurd idea and the gumption of those willing to try regardless. My father's house and yard were filled with testaments to successful experiments and ideas gone wrong. A visitor was never quite sure which were which. He loved that.
Ideas are becoming another form of productivity, something to be implemented and measured. Instead of celebrating the madcap and unattainable, or the stack of first chapters and partial canvases, they are seen as a waste of time. We belittle unfinished ideas, as if we're not all unfinished ideas.
Ideas should never be limited to what's possible.
Does what we create have value if no one else ever sees it? What if it is never finished?
Bringing something new into the world is one of life's great joys, of course. That should always be encouraged and celebrated. The extra push to stop chasing perfection, let go, and share it, is a good thing.
Yes, real artists ship. They also have ideas that are never realized and work that lies unfinished. They have dreams they can't describe and plans that don't make sense.
We're all trying in our imperfect way to express the inexpressible. We're all real artists.
A bonus short film, Hobbies. This is forever my favorite video on the web; the joy of ideas, whatever direction they take you.
Last week's dispatch asked, What do you wish you could experience again for the first time?
The thing I'd like to experience again for the first time is doing something I'd previously believed to be “impossible.” I've spent far too much of my life listening to the voice in my head that tells me I won't be able to do things: “You'll never be able to run a marathon.” “You're not good at talking to people you don't know.” “It's too late to change careers now.” Over the last five years, I've learned to ignore that voice. I've also learned that if I focus on what I want to achieve and do the work, nothing is impossible.
I skydive a few weekends ago. Afterwards, all the little things felt so good: breathing, sitting, a drink of water, the warmth of the sun. It was so clear that that was the way to live. I plan on going again soon, but I'd love to have that same experience over, and over again.
I don't feel much nostalgia for firsts, perhaps because I still experience them frequently. The difference is that they are happening on a subtler level now.
What is necessary for me is to get back to the present, to pay attention and intentionally move into the new possibilities. I will never have a first love again, but perhaps I will have my first love which is founded on a spiritual connection, for example.
I think there is actually something wonderful about doing the same thing over and over again. As long as it is something worthy, something valuable and uplifting. A well-worn act, like the bow at the temple door, or arpeggio in our vocal practice, can be infinitely enriching. It symbolizes the inexhaustibility of life, and the completeness we can find without resort to blatant novelty, which by its very nature, stays somewhat near the surface. To me, wearing the same grooves deeper and deeper, and at the same time finding new subtleties in them, is one of the great pleasures of growing up.
Watch Firefly. Read Anathem and The Magicians. Fall asleep with my new son on my chest (and so many other moments with him).
Riding a bicycle. It's my favorite thing in the world to do. It allows me to escape whatever is going on in life. Each time I'm excited to ride my bike, but I wish I could experience it for the first time again.
I wish I could experience again the first time I met each of my dearest friends. For some, the memories of those first meetings are funny and bright, as we've told and retold the story over time, coloring it with different shades of nostalgia. For others, we can't remember our first meeting, or can't exactly agree on when and how it happened. In the first case, it's hard to imagine there was ever a time before we knew each other. In the second, the lost memory is proof that we've known each other since forever.
This is probably an easy one for many: falling in love with my now-wife, Bethany. So many experiences in life are unique, great and exhilarating. But there is absolutely nothing like falling head over heels, drunk in love with someone who feels exactly the same way. It's completely life-altering and it's wonderful.
Kissing my husband when we were dating for the very first time turned into a 45 minute lip locking odyssey full of passion and unselfish love.
The joy of flight. I was five. I loved airplanes (or growing up in Australia, more appropriately, airplanes). My mum, knowing my love arranged for us to take a "Mystery Flight". These were basically last minute flights that you purchased at the airport ticket counter first thing in the morning. You show up. Buy your ticket. Jump on the next plan with availability and fly to the mystery destination. You get off. Have a cup of tea in the terminal. Get back on the plane and fly back to your point of origination. Ansett, a long defunct airline used to offer these mystery flights during the week. I think the tickets were $10 a piece. My first flight was to Wagga Wagga, New South Wales. It is not as glamorous as it sounds. I loved every second of it—it was magical.
Battlestar Galactica. It is arguably the best television series of all time. Whether it's the characters, the plot twists, the space battles, the theorizing, the debates over morality/spirituality/politics, the music, or the overall story; Battlestar has something for everyone. My wife and I regularly discuss how much fun it would be to wipe it from our memory and experience it all again. We've settled on an interim solution until science catches up: develop friendships with people who have never seen it. To date, we've re-watched the entire series with three different groups of people. Watching the series unfold through their eyes may be the closest we ever get to experiencing it all again, and it's great fun.
On September 12th, 2010 I met my now husband for the first time. We ate brunch and curiously navigated our individual lives through our conversation. His gentle nature captured my attention. There is nothing abrasive about him. All of the other boys I'd dated had some edge to them. They were boisterous, opinionated, and at times, downright obnoxious—just like me. Andrew stood out on that Sunday morning. He didn't sweep me off my feet nor take my breath away. I wasn't overcome with passion, or giddy and tingling. He simply intrigued me. Our connection grew slowly, with a quiet strength. I am so thankful for him and his opposing persona. I would love to relive that moment in time and sometimes, when the world is quiet and I am fully present, I think I do. I'm back in that place of awe, curiosity, and intrigue.
What was the last idea you fell in love with?