Pick the Idea That’s Craziest

 

Sometimes you and I as writers will see a whole menu of ideas before us.

One will seem surefire commercial. Another will seem risky but fun. A third might seem totally off the wall.

Dick Rowe, “the Man Who Turned Down the Beatles”

Which one should we pick?

Before I give you my own idiosyncratic answer (which you’ve probably guessed already), let me cite two instances from my own career.

The idea for The Legend of Bagger Vance came to me just as my screenwriting career, which I had dedicated ten years of my life to, was about to catch fire. The idea came as a book, not a movie. My agent fired me over it. He thought I was crazy to do it.

It turned out to be the first genuine success of my career.

The idea for Gates of Fire seemed (to me, as I considered plunging in to write it) even less commercial. It seemed absolutely loony. An epic about warriors from 2500 years ago, from a country nobody has heard of, fighting in a battle no one can remember, in a place no one can spell, let alone pronounce.

Gates has sold over a million copies and is still going strong.

For me, the craziest, least likely ideas have always worked out the best.

Why?

Here’s my theory:

Because these ideas weren’t crazy at all.

They only seemed crazy to me, at their inception, because I was thinking with my head.

The sphere of creativity does not operate by the same laws as that of normal, conventional enterprises.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again:

You and I as artists have no idea what we’re doing.

We may think we do. We may imagine that we understand what the zeitgeist is calling for. We may believe that we are manipulating our material with clear-eyed, conscious control.

We’re not.

What is really happening is this:

You and I as artists inhabit one dimension of reality—the material dimension.

Meanwhile:

All creativity has its origin in a different sphere—the plane of potentiality.

Our job is to tune in to that sphere. And to trust it.

What seems “crazy” to us on our level is not crazy at all on the higher level. In fact it’s the opposite of crazy. It’s exactly what needs to be expressed and what needs to be heard.

Cubism.

Quantum mechanics.

E = MC2..

Do we want to be the guy who turned down the Beatles? (When we ourselves are the Beatles?)

Sometimes it’s crazier to pick the conventional idea than it is to go with the craziest.

 

P.S. In Dick Rowe’s defense (he was Head of A&R at Decca Records in the 50s, 60s, and 70s), he did sign The Rolling Stones, the Moody Blues, the Zombies, and many, many more.