- Transcript of Rilla Alexander's Talk at 99 Conference
- I love ideas. And this one ... this is my best idea yet. My other ideas are good. But this one, it's the one. I daydream about it while I'm walking, running, and taking a shower. It's the last thing I think about before I fall asleep, and it wakes me up in the middle of the night. I see it in everything I do. It's getting bigger and bigger, clearer and clearer. It gives me an adrenaline rush; I'm so excited. I tell everyone I know about my idea: about how good it is, and how wonderful it's going to be. It's so good, I'm already thinking about the sequel. That's how much everyone's going to love it.
- I start researching. I find old books, and I dig deep on the Internet. I find out things that NO one else would ever find. That's how I know it's the best idea in the world. I amass pages and pages and pages of notes. I explore the what-ifs and the how-abouts, and I keep my mind open to everything. Just LOOK at that idea. It's SO FULL of potential.
- I write a to-do list. Things start happening fast. I wait for that extra special thing to arrive from the other side of the world - the thing I need to get started. It arrives. I get comfortable at my desk. I can't work with anything hanging over my head, so I check my e-mails. It's good to get that out of the road. I don't want to run out of energy while I'm working, so I just have a really little snack. I can't work without the radio on, so I tune into my favorite radio show, and I think about what I'm going to say when they interview me about my amazing idea.
- Okay, it really is time I turn my e-mail off. And finally, finally, I put pencil to paper, and I work hours, and I work days. I work weeks, and I work months. And it's time to take a step back and look at what I've done. And suddenly, I'm confronted by the overwhelming mediocrity of my ability and the banality of my idea, and it HURTS. I wanted this to be the best idea I'd ever done. I wanted it to be the best idea that ANYONE's ever done. But, it's not. It's okay; I'll work on it ... tomorrow. Or, maybe the next day? At least I've got a really, really clean desk.
- I absentmindedly Google "procrastinate," and I find another word, and it's "perendicate." And it means to put off until the day AFTER tomorrow. So, I do just that. And I get to thinking: what about all those other ideas I've got? They're really wonderful. Especially that one. And that one's pretty good, too. And, oh, that one, that one's the best. In fact, this idea I'm working on now? It's holding me BACK. And don't you think today would be a really good day to move from one id-one side of the world to the other? So I do. I move from Australia to Germany. And it's WONDERFUL. It's everything I wanted. I feel rejuvenated. I can't wait to get back to work on that idea. But first, I need to find somewhere to live. And does anyone know how to get the Internet connected around here?
- And five years pass. And I go back and forth, and I go round and round, and I work hard, and I live life, and I daydream. And I come up with so many more wonderful ideas. And my idea starts to look really old. And I begin to hate it. And it taunts me. And I am stuck. It's turned in to a huge weight of unfulfilled expectations. I've been trying so hard not to fail that I have in fact failed. Failed to finish ANYTHING. And anything, even something that fails to meet my expectations, would be better than nothing. I give up.
- And that's when it happens. [Angelic choir noise.] I realize my idea wasn't old. It's not even bad. It just wasn't ready, and it needed to develop, and it needed to grow, and it needed to turn into something new. And all those ideas I had when I thought I wasn't doing anything? They've now joined together and made this new idea. They're ideas from my life; they're ideas from books, places, I've been; and they've all come together, and I'm ready to go again. And best of all, in all those years that I was procrastinating, I actually think I got a little bit better.
- I love this idea. I've got that adrenaline rush again. But how am I going to make sure I actually finish it this time? I realize that *I* know how to finish ideas, because I do it all the time. But what makes those ideas any different?
- They've got a deadline. And those deadlines force me to have realistic expectations. Instead of being preoccupied by how wonderful my idea is, I concentrate on getting it done. It doesn't mean I don't bend over backwards to make it the best I can, but the most important thing is that I actually make it happen.
- Most of those ideas involve other people. Whether they're a client, or people that I work with, there's somebody that I actually want to excite. And to excite them, I have to have something to show them.
- And most crucially, I only work on one idea at a time. I don't give up easily. I DON'T get distracted.
- Of course, I still daydream. But if I catch those ideas in my idea book, it actually means that I can focus on what I'm doing.
- I also break the idea up into sections. That means it's easier to work on small tasks rather than focusing on the whole goal. But, in the case of client projects, it's so you can actually get paid. You have to tell people where you're up to so that they'll pay the invoice.
- But, of course, everything I do isn't paid. And for those projects, I have to be really content with ticking things off, crossing things off the to-do list. And when that isn't enough, there's always chocolate.
- But all the chocolate in the world really doesn't make work fun. Dreaming up the idea is fun: it's all about play, the potential and the certainty that comes with new ideas. But that's only the tip of the iceberg. Floating underneath the water is the huge mass. And it's the work, it's actually doing the idea.
- It's about mistakes and failure. And they cause self-doubt. And it takes time, and focus and concentration to rework them and to actually make that idea happen.
- Without the doing, the dreaming is useless.
- Okay, I am going to make this idea happen. But, I'm not going to talk about what I am doing. I'm going to talk about what I have done - it's not hypothetical any more.
- First of all, I set some rules. Deadlines, I break things up into sections. If I set boundaries, it means I have to make less decisions while I'm actually working. But it's also so I've got something to push against. I like to squeeze into the gaps between the rules and to create something unexpected. And part of that is staying open to the idea, and following it down unexpected paths. Letting the idea take control.
- I accept that it's very unlikely that this idea is going to work out right away. It's going to take time and patience. I have to refine it, I have to untangle it, and I have to make it work. Rather than blaming the idea, or dwelling on my own lack of talent, I concentrate on doing it. It's going to take mistakes, it's going to take failures. But that's just part of the process.
- Of course, there's always going to be another idea that looks better. But that's because I'm not working on that idea. If I started working on it, then I'd also discover its flaws and its failures.
- I have to stay open to the fact that the idea might be bad. But if I figure that out quickly enough, I can try and fix those failures. And if not, at least I've given it a really good shot.
- But I don't give up. I don't abandon this one, I don't cripple it with self-doubt. I just keep working. I work so hard that I'm prepared to defend it. But I still do listen to the feedback that other people give me, and I make changes depending on the critique. Actually sharing is part of the process, and I don't even need to get feedback from people, because it's how I feel. If I know that I'm not 100% proud, it means that there's something I can still fix.
- I'm not going to lie to you: it's a lot of work. It takes me a really, really long time. But it's much more satisfying than procrastinating. Things that I think will take me a day take a week. Things that I think will take a week take a month. I cross a lot of things off to-do lists, and I eat a lot of chocolate. But then, in the end, believe it or not, I finish my idea. And, it's a book. And it's called "Her Idea." And I'd like to read it to you. And just to prove it, it's real.
- Sozi had an idea. In fact, she had hundreds. They came to her everywhere, any time her mind wandered. Her head was swimming with them, all slippery and slimy. Some were simple and smart, others silly and surprising. The newest idea was always the best, but she loved them ALL more than the rest. If she only had time, there would be such fun, but one thing was sure, something had to be done. It was time to begin. She was set to start. She was going to make a work of art. Hmmm. Maybe later. Not today, anyway. It's such a big task, and she'd much rather play. Slowly and surely, one by one, the ideas slipped away until there were none. With a flood of tears, she collapsed in a heap. There was nothing to do but to wail and to weep. She had no ideas; she couldn't cope, until a kind passerby stopped to offer some hope. Proceeding with haste, he searched and he chased. He followed and he ran, and when, at last, he caught the idea, there was an almighty earth-shaking slam. He gave Sozi the idea, squished for safe-keeping, caught in the moment, as it was leaping. It was perfectly healthy; just paper-thin, preserved for whenever work could begin. Sozi's eyes lit up; she hugged her new friend. "Oh please, oh please, can we do that AGAIN?" An idea over there, and one over here, they found those ideas everywhere. And not just ideas, but other stuff too, that might come in handy ... who knew? Happy at last, her mind was now clear. She looked through the pages of captured ideas. There was an idea for a book, that was the one; she made a plan to get it done. It struggled, it squirmed, it tried to get free. She stretched it, she smashed it, and divided it in three. But even after she finished the start, and worked 'til half-past the middle, she still didn't know what would be at the end, and if she'd have to begin again. But she kept on regardless; she refused to quit; when the end came, that's when she would deal with it. So what did she find, when she reached the last page? Cheering crowds? A parade? An award on a stage? No. You wouldn't guess what she found at the end. There was nothing there except her idea-hunting friend. He opened up proudly to give her a hug - but then, without warning, signal or clue, SLAM, he squished HER. (Believe it: it's true!) But, dear reader, don't fret, and don't fear. We all know, after all, this was her idea. Living in a book, along with her friends, that's the way this story ends. And here at the end, the very last one, this is her idea. And it's completely done.
- And that's the end of the story.
Transcript of Rilla Alexander's Talk at 99 Conference
WCityMike Jan 14th, 2013 330 Never
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