Monday, July 18, 2016

McCue on Giving Up on Your Ideas

Over at 99U, Matt McCue talks about the value of jettisoning your precious, precious ideas. Excerpt:
Growing up, I had a Winston Churchill quote on my desk: “Never, never, never give up.” It served as a daily reminder to continue pushing forward, especially when things were rough.

Persevering against all odds certainly helps in the creative industry where you have to convince art directors and brand managers to buy your abstract and experimental ideas and bring them to life in the real world. However, looking back, I realize that the mentality to keep going at all costs can be an inefficient approach to work. In other words, there are merits to giving up.

I’m not saying give in at the first sign of a struggle. But what if we thought of our ideas less as precious commodities (and battles to be won) and more like stocks we can invest in and cut loose depending on how the market –project managers, clients – feel about them at given times? Things we like and feel are promising, but aren’t married to, should our position become weak or we find a more favorable opportunity.

Ideas, though, are treated with far more care. We often apply a “buy and hold” strategy to them, especially the bigger ones, like building a company or developing a new product. I think it’s because our ideas are often tied to our dreams, and what we’re really unwilling to give up on is the dream itself.
Read the whole thing. If you’ve been a beta reader for any length of time, you know what it’s like to review a piece so fundamentally flawed that you end up thinking, “Okay, I like this part, and that section over there shows some promise. But what this writer really needs to do is bulldoze the whole thing and start over with a whole new foundation.” And if you’ve ever handed over your compositional babies to beta readers, you’ve doubtlessly mused at some point, “I don’t know why people are so down on this piece. I just need to revise it once or twice (or four more times), and it’ll be fine.” I’ve found my portrait blazoned on both sides of that coin, my opinion as indelibly stamped as Lady Liberty on a slab of silver. But as time continues its inexorable march forward, I find myself falling more in line with McCue’s opinion. Ideas are as common as weedy wildflowers, and actually following through with them isn’t as rare as many would have you think. The real dilemma lies in bringing conceptualizations to full fruition that actually work. Letting go of unfruitful options might seem tough at first, but any writer with a well-thumbed commonplace book will soon find he has more ideas than he can possibly hope to flesh out.

(Picture: CC 2007 by Daniele Marlenek)

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