Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Ever read a book or watched a movie and said to yourself, “Wow, I wish I’d thought of that!”?

Last night I watched the movie Julie & Julia…based on two true stories. It was a good movie but, more importantly, it brought to mind the concept of ideas.

Julie’s idea was inspired. She didn’t realize it would create the furor it did, launching her into a semblance of fame that was then compounded by a Hollywood movie. She was simply looking for a project to finish, something to give meaning to a career she saw as stalled, at a standstill. Her idea worked because it was original. It connected with people on a basic level. Julie was a normal woman, just like millions in the country, connecting with her idol and giving her life meaning through the act of cooking. What’s more important, she carried through to the end. She moved her readers.

Ironically, her success has probably created a surge of “copycats,” people who are now trying to make their way through some other cookbook, or some other kind of book entirely, blogging about it and hoping to achieve the same success. Maybe I’m wrong about that, but if I’m right…they’ve missed the point.

Great ideas are difficult to come by. Sometimes it takes a happy accident. More often, it takes intense dedication, insight and just plain hard work. Because of that, people who come up with those great inspirations (and who follow through with them) deserve the glory the ideas bring to them.

It’s far easier to copy another idea, to become a mere shadow of someone else’s great work. I’m not judging. I’m the first to admit that I have few, if any, truly original ideas. Most of my ideas can be summed up as, “…like this book crossed with that book,” or “…something like that author, but with elements of this author over here.” It makes me a little disappointed in myself.

If you write them well enough, you can pay the bills with unoriginal ideas. If you take familiar elements and rearrange them artfully, you can create a readership. Until we manage to capture our own brilliant concepts, we may have to be content with that. Bills do have to be paid; you can’t go bankrupt because you only want to write original ideas. That doesn’t need to keep us from trying harder.

I, for one, want to strive for even more. I want to strive for that “Ah ha!” moment, that idea that makes the reader say, “Wow, I wish I’d thought of that.”

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