Minutes after I returned from a mini-vacation in California, my daughter Jennie called. “Can you talk to Zoe?” she asked. “She put glitter glue on her Fancy Nancy puzzle and she’s having artist’s remorse.”

The next thing I knew, a sobbing 4 1/2-year-old was telling me that she had ruined her puzzle and then made matter worse by trying to undo her error. In the process, she had torn the puzzle. Reliving this horror made her cry even harder.

I did my best to explain to her that we have to keep trying things and we won’t always like the results. All that mattered to her was her ugly mess. All that mattered to me was to make sure Zoe knew that it is okay to make mistakes.

Zoe’s still too young to realize that the only way to know for sure if an idea is a good one or not is to try it out. If we’re really paying attention, we’ll also discover that the bad ones can teach us as much (or more) than the good ones. Since ideas are about bringing into being something that did not exist before, predicting the outcome is an exercise in futility. A willingness to experiment, on the other hand, will often lead us to surprising success.

Imagine having the idea to write a book about punctuation. If you’re passionate about such things, you might assume that it was too weird to think anyone would be interested in reading about the proper placement of commas and apostrophes. Yet thousands of us were delighted that Lynne Truss followed through with her idea. As she writes in the preface to the American edition of her book, “To be clear from the beginning: no one involved in the production of Eats, Shoots & Leaves expected the words ‘runaway’ and ‘bestseller’ would ever be associated with it…My book was aimed at the tiny minority of British people ‘who love punctuation and don’t like to see it mucked about with.’ When my own mother suggested we print on the front of the book ‘For the select few,’ I was hurt, I admit it.”  Her mother was wrong as thousands of readers proved.

Linus Pauling said, “The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas.” You can’t possibly know what the best ones are unless you’re willing to try out a bunch.

$100 Hour: Share how-to information in your own e-book. This popular way to get into publishing is ideal for niche marketers, as well as writers with expertise on timely topics. Check out Booklocker to learn more.

Explore More: If you haven’t read Eats, Shoots & Leaves, surprise yourself by discovering how interesting and funny punctuation can be in the hands of a creative writer. You’ll learn to avoid what my sister Margaret called Misplaced Apostrophe Syndrome. As Zoe would say, “Come on. It’ll be fun!”

Ideas are a dime a dozen. People who implement them are priceless. ~ Mary Kay Ash

3 Responses to “IdeaStarter #19 The Only Real Test for Ideas”

  1. David Sloan

    Sounds just like my daughter! She’s 7 but still takes her art (and her mistakes) very seriously (lots of tears when things don’t work out as planned). I tell her the same thing, that mistakes can lead you to a whole new idea that you wouldn’t have thought of any other way. Sometimes it works…

comments are closed