I recently read Shawn Blanc's thought-provoking piece on ideas. He discusses the need to encourage bad ideas, because eventually a good one will come along. Promoting bad ideas, he says, will simply give you a reason to have ideas. Some people think they don't have any good ideas because they've stopped letting themselves have ideas in the first place. It's easy to get in the habit of shutting things down before they even start. That's one topic I want to cover here. The others are a mix of articles and ideas I've come across lately.
Rather than the good idea-bad idea conundrum Blanc speaks of, I seem to struggle with a variant of procrastination in which I have a lot of ideas, but none of them seem developed enough to put out there. I often have new ideas for a post here on Papermail as I'm walking, biking, or driving (basically any gerund). I've gotten into the habit, however, of thinking about them for 30 seconds and then coming to the conclusion that I don't have enough to say, I won't be able to contribute anything unique to the discussion, or I haven't lived long enough to talk about such a thing without sounding ignorant. Those seem like valid concerns, but I'm not so sure they always are.
It's likely much better for we creative people to get out and do stuff than it is for us to spend time discovering exactly what we want to do. It's tempting — at least for me — to research things a lot and to try to predict what will happen if Idea A is used instead of Idea D. That is the proverbial road to success in a lot of fields. In the past year, though, I've found there seems to be a lot more to "success" than researching all the possibilities and going with the option that seems most statistically viable. I usually go with the option that hits me hard enough to get my attention. I don't even think about where it will go.
And now, the obligatory bit on pretending. People tend to do that a lot, whether they're pretending to be happy for the table they're serving or acting professional so they can get a job as a server. David Cain over at Raptitude talked a bit about that in his recent post on bad faith.
A more interesting example of acting/pretending/performing/whatever you want to call it is Benjamin Brooks. I used to follow his blog when he and Blanc co-hosted The B&B Podcast. I removed his blog from my RSS feed when he began waywardly tearing apart every little thing. I also used to do that to an extent, so I sympathized when I heard his Spoken note on negativity. In it, he gives one piece of advice to new bloggers: Don't become someone you think your readers want you to be. Don't put on a face; blogging isn't acting and you're not playing a character. He talks about how it eventually carried over into his daily life. The same thing happened to me, and it was difficult to get back to the real world where I couldn't hide behind my little screen and complain about everything. I had to learn how to appreciate stuff again.
Moving closer to the original topic, it's difficult to have ideas that fit what you want to do, what you feel like you should be doing, and what you know people want you to do. It's especially difficult when you're self-employed and your boss is essentially your clients, viewers, or readers, collectively. It's not necessarily a problem the Internet poses — books have been around much longer and critics have always been critics. Rather, it's a personal issue of always remembering your identity through the process. That will carry you through any misconceptions of what your goal is.
For Papermail, my goal used to be to publish news and commentary on what other people were talking about on the Internet. Then I transitioned to just writing reviews on occasion and life advice of some sort. In my head, the activity has stayed the same: An idea pops into my head and I write it if I'm in the perfect place to do so. As of this article, though, things have changed. For this, I began by writing a journal entry because I couldn't find a good topic. Several came from the entry, and this is one of them. It always helps to do what you know until you can do what you're discovering. And do it for you, not for the views.