What a Great Idea!

How often do you find yourself looking at a new product or design and wondering “how did they ever think of that? And how clever!” We do it all the time because – this is important – we are in the idea business. Fresh and new designs, products, colors, adaptations… pick one or all… these are what make our world of art licensing go ‘round.

There is an old saying in show biz, “It takes decades to become an overnight success”. Of course you don’t need to be an entertainer to understand that as it applies to pretty much everything we do. Another one of my favorites along those same lines: “Inspiration is freely granted to those who work hard”. It’s a rare case where a hot new product is the result of the first idea that just popped into someone’s head, instead they have gone through any number of transformations and redesigns, finally evolving into what we see as brand new on the market.

I was reading an interview with Leif Enger, the Minnesota born author of Peace Like a River, and others, and he was talking about the process of creating ideas. He says, “In the early stages all ideas look good and only through the daily work are the bad ones revealed…you have to plunge ahead with the faith that (the good idea) will emerge. If it doesn’t, you excise the problem (and start over).”

A couple other creative jots from the last couple weeks, the first from Don Draper in Mad Men:
“The best idea wins, and you’ll know it when you see it. It’s about banging your head against the wall until you get to it.”

And from an interview with Steve Smith, one of the creators (and Red himself) of The Red Green Show:
“The core message of the Red Green Show was that it will work, just keep trying. And if it doesn’t, well, quit doing it and do something else.”

These are several different ways of saying pretty much the same thing – that the best technique for generating more ideas is to actually work on the ones you have. This is also when you will realize if they are going anywhere, and if you are not sure, if you don’t feel the excitement coming through, then set it aside and start anew. The old stereotype of the writer surrounded by crumpled up pieces of paper (now they would be .docs…) comes from a place of truth. The recycling bins of all successful artists are overflowing with tried and discarded sketches, it’s really the only way to get there.

As the bulletin board says above Ronnie’s desk, “Dare to Suck”.

6 replies
  1. Krista
    Krista says:

    Nice! And along the same lines, from The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs:

    “…I’ll let you in on a little secret. We don’t all love our jobs every day. And doing something you have a passion for doesn’t make the work part of it any easier.”

    “It doesn’t?”

    “No. it just makes you less likely to quit.”

  2. Karyn Servin
    Karyn Servin says:

    Love both your posting and Krista’s comment. I may not get everything I want, but I have the good fortune to be able to keep slamming my head against the wall punctuated by moments of successful creations. Yes, I do dare to suck.

  3. BJ Lantz
    BJ Lantz says:

    I just had this conversation with an art buddy ~ that I find the best ideas come when I am WORKING, not when I am sitting around waiting for them to happen.

    Another Mad Men fan! Did you see my blog post from the July Atlanta show? I ran into Bryan Batt (Salvatore on MM)…

  4. murphy girl
    murphy girl says:

    hi jim,
    i’ve spent some time reading your very helpful blog and i am wondering if you can answer a question, or maybe post a blog about it: as an artist trying to break into licensing, i keep hearing from people in this business that it’s imperative that i walk the shows to see the trends, meet manufacturers, become familiar about products (you yourself saying atlanta gift is a must), but it appears that these shows are for buyer/retail/manufact. only…how does an artist (who isn’t renting a booth at the show) attend? i welcome and appreciate any comments you have on this topic! thanks so much,
    leigh hannan


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