Kickstarter Lesson #204: Your Idea Is Brilliant, Your Idea Is Worthless

7 November 2016 | 83 Comments

While I was at a family wedding a few weeks ago, one of my aunts asked me, “So, what’s the hardest part about designing a game? It must be coming up with the ideas, right?”

I laughed. “I have plenty of ideas–hundreds of them. I think most game designers do. The challenge is executing those ideas.”

Ever since I started Stonemaier Games–and with increasing frequency–people have come to me with their ideas. Most of them are board-game ideas; others are ideas for Kickstarter projects in a variety of categories.

The sentiment is almost always the same: A person has an idea, and they’re looking for help to make that idea a reality. Many of them want a partner–they’ll be in charge of the idea, and I’ll execute it.

Their intentions are well-meaning. They place a high value on their idea, and they want to put it in good hands.

I get that. I’ve been there. But it’s not that simple. Not even close.

nike-mag-2016-official-05_native_600Your Idea Is Brilliant

Ideas are important. Your idea is important. It may even be brilliant.

Take, for example, pretty much any science-fiction novel, movie, or television show. It’s probably full of interesting ideas, and those ideas might inspire actual science or technology someday.

When you have the freedom to generate ideas without the pressure to execute, you can think of some incredible things.

So, no matter what anyone tells you, don’t stop generating ideas. Daydream about them. Share them with other people. Write them down (I use Trello).

Your idea is brilliant. But…

Your Idea Is Worthless

I hate to break it to you, but your idea–any idea, really–is worthless. An idea only has value when it is executed, and it only has a lot of value when it’s executed well.

Say you have an idea for a board game. It’s a great idea. You have a friend who has a terrible idea for a game. You know this because they wrote a terrible rulebook and pieced together a terrible prototype. You played it, and it was terrible.

Your friend’s terrible prototype is worth 100x more than your great idea.

Why? Because your friend actually did something with their idea. They created something. It may be terrible, but at least it exists. They’re now informed about how to proceed based on something real, something tangible.

It takes a tremendous amount of courage to turn an idea into reality. It then takes a tremendous amount of time and effort to turn that reality into something functional, much less something great.

So if you’re offering someone your idea in exchange for them to execute it, you’re basically asking them to do 99.99% of the work. That’s not a partnership.

Imagine if your spouse told you, “I have an idea for a delicious 10-course meal. You should spend the next few days researching each dish, buying the ingredients, testing different versions, preparing the final meal, and serving it plate by plate at a dinner party. We’ll split the credit 50/50.”

There is no such thing as a million-dollar idea. All ideas are worth $0. Your idea might be fun to talk about, but until you execute it, it has no value.

How to Make an Idea a Reality

Here are two specific things you can do right now with your brilliant idea:

  1. Share it: Share your idea today with at least 5 people, ideally on a public forum. You might be afraid of someone stealing your idea. Don’t be. Remember, ideas are an abundant commodity–it’s time that is scarce. If you share your idea, you’ll get immediate feedback. You might learn that your idea already exists–that’s probably the best case scenario, because instead of you spending a ton of time, effort, and money on creating it, you can just go buy it right now.
  2. Make a little bit: Take at least one creative step towards making your idea into something real. Don’t try to make the whole thing today–that’s too daunting. Instead, just make a little bit. Write the first paragraph of the novel. Sketch out the layout of the card. Call the jet fuel factory to get some pricing for your Iron Man suit. I think you will be surprised by what happens after you stop thinking about your idea and start making it.

One of the best things about bringing your own idea to life–not just despite all the work, but thanks to all the work–is that it feels GREAT. You just took something that doesn’t exist (a figment of your imagination) and made it a reality. It’s incredibly satisfying. (Thanks to Falko in the comments for pointing this out.)

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I’m curious to hear your thoughts about this topic in the comments.

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Also read/watch:

83 Comments on “Kickstarter Lesson #204: Your Idea Is Brilliant, Your Idea Is Worthless

  1. I could not agree more. There are a lot of people out their who think that their ideas are worth a lot. The idea, by itself, is really not worth anything. It is all about the ability to make the idea real. What people don’t realize is how much work goes into bringing ideas into reality. We are heavily involved in our local board game community and we hear ideas for new games weekly and we see those ideas turned into prototypes almost never. We get a lot people who want us to make their idea work for them. It is amazing how many people are not willing to do the smallest amount of work to make their idea happen. I really admire anyone who has an idea and puts the work into making it real, even if the ultimate goal is not accomplished.

    1. Well said, Loren. I think it’s daunting for people to take that step from idea to execution (or maybe it’s just laziness–we’ve all experienced that). I’ll echo what you said about admiration: Knowing how much time and effort goes into designing a game makes me really admire and appreciate those who go through that process (or even START that process).

      1. This probably applies to the community on kickstarter. But it is a different ball game with the high tech sector. The best ideas are never on kickstarter. You will never see a multi-million or multi-billion dollar company grow out of kickstarter. Look into how companies like microsoft, apple, facebook etc. got their start. Kickstarter is a joke. Real entrepreneurs know better than to share good ideas with anyone. You will never see a multimillion or multibillion dollar idea on kickstarter. And with regards to the execution part, Facebook, microsoft, apple, etc. all those guys did the execution themselves because their idea was that good. Execution is no a problem if you have a good idea, i’m talking about multimillion and multibillion dollar ideas. Those ideas on kickstarter are joke.

        1. John: I appreciate you sharing your opinion, but I think your comment is demonstrably incorrect. Do you think Steve Jobs built the iPhone by himself? Or that Zuckerberg grew Facebook to what it is today without bringing in other people?

        2. I have to strongly and respectfully disagree with this notion that ideas on Kickstarter are a joke. Kickstarter has given some incredible ideas the financial resources they needed to be brought to life.

          The comparisons to Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, etc. are misplaced. Most game designers and publishers are not trying to be the next Apple. You should compare successful Kickstarter projects with successful games which went through the traditional publishing route. You will see big successes from both methods.

        3. The Oculus Rift singled handedly revolutionized the game industry and pushed really hard towards VR and Mixed Reality.
          It was a kickstarter Idea, current net worth of Palmer Luckey is 750 million, big shot.

  2. Hi Jamie, I found really difficult to write down a nice rulebook. My first one failed a blind test so I’m going to write it down again and this is slowing me a bit. I have the prototipe, an interested editor and many positive feedbacks after a 3-4 years of playtesting and little steps forward (It’s an agility filler about Fantasy Tennis called “Wimbledice”).
    I’m just thinking about looking at some other succesfull rulebook of a game similar to mine and follow those steps, explaining it like if it was a Demo. But a nice guide on “Hints for a good Rulebook” would be appreciated ;) What do you think about it?

  3. The timing of this couldn’t be more perfect. Inspired by all the creativity at your Design Day, I’ve had an idea for a game I wanted to play around with, and have just started taking those baby steps towards making that idea a reality. Thanks for the extra motivation!

      1. That’s my goal! The thing that has prevented me from trying in the past is the worry that my idea isn’t good or the game won’t work, and it may not. But as I’ve started to do more play testing I’ve begun to see that it’s actually through the process of trying that you even have a chance of eventually creating something worthwhile (vs. hoping you come up with that perfect idea in your head).

        1. “it’s actually through the process of trying that you even have a chance of eventually creating something worthwhile”

          I’m quoting you on that, because it’s something everyone needs to read. Well said.

  4. This is a very common problem in video and computer games as well. And it’s not just with casual players wanting to sell an idea. I’ve talked with students going to game design and art colleges, who still have the same view. Out of a group of 15 students in one art related class, six asked me about how they can become hired as concept artists — essentially, they want to draw the cool pictures, and let others do the grind. Even those who come into the industry in positions such as QA often believe they can just step into design. It is probably the same in most entertainment related industries.

  5. I just attended a panel by Gil Hova called “10 Mistakes New Designers Make.” The first mistake was overvaluing your idea, the last (and most emphasized) was never starting. Now I’ve had two people whose opinions I value tell me the same thing in as many days.
    It seems the universe is telling me something. Better get started on that next prototype.

  6. Excellent article Jamey! I have the same thoughts about that! Some people offer an idea for a game or a basic prototype, but they don’t understand that’s the beginning… I would appreciate someone coming with a fully finished and tested game, working well. That would be something. I don’t have enough time to work on my ideas actually ;p But is someone comes with the finished game or nearly finished game which need some polishing and artwork then that’s something different. That makes sense.

    Thanks for your post :)

    1. Mateusz: That’s a great point that even the first prototype is just the first step of a long journey. As a publisher, I want a fully tested game that is both fun and functional (and perceived to be complete, even though I like to have the flexibility as a developer to continue to improve it). Until a game is tested a few times, I don’t even want to hear about it at all. :)

  7. Jamey! Such a great post. The sad thing is… So many great ideas never see the light of day. I like your first step suggestions, because it pushes people into a potentially supportive community. This helps them overcome fear. And, telling others about your idea makes you accountable. Great stuff.

  8. Great Post Jamey…really hits home for me in the midst of bringing to life my own creation…Kingdoms Lawn Game. I, like many, love the process of coming up with ideas for new games or inventions.

    In my opinion, Ideas are popular for two main reasons: malleability and independence. You can easily shift from one idea to the next or allow your idea to reform or evolve with simply the use of your mind. You need no assistance and are not dependent on others for your idea to come to life. No dollars or backers necessary. It is yours and yours alone (or a group of friends).

    In my experience, taking something from an idea to a reality takes so much effort…more than I ever dreamed. There is less flexibility and less independence. Often, you are restrained by the manufacturing process, timelines, cost, customer input, etc. And if something goes wrong, it could be months of frustration and countless dollars. There are partnerships that need to be created and relationships that need attending…to make any idea into something real.

    1. Denny: I completely agree, and I’d add that with an idea, there’s unlimited potential. It’s perfect in it’s beautiful idea form because you have no data to suggest otherwise. That’s one of the reasons it can be so daunting–and even scary–to actually start to make the idea a reality, because it can lose a lot of that luster and become work. A lot of work. :)

      1. I totally agree with you Jamey. You quickly realize how not everyone thinks as highly as you do about your idea when you are attempting to make that idea a real thing…it can be very humbling and eye-opening. I also agree with you about it becoming work. The fun of design and thinking about the awesome art/graphics and cool characters you want to create turns into emails, more emails, logistics about shipping, product safety testing, insurance, copyrights…the list goes on and on.

        Which raises an interesting question: How do you personally, or anyone in the business, deal with the overwhelming amount of stuff/work that needs to be done in order to put out a successful product and still maintain a level of passion/joy? Thanks.

        1. Denny: That’s a good question, and I’m not sure that I have a good answer. I’m able to spend a lot of time on Stonemaier (70-80 hours a week) because it’s my full-time job and because I’m single. My only dependents are 2 cats. I’m able to maintain a passion/joy for what I do because…well, I just really love what I do! There have certainly been times where certain aspects of the business have gotten under my skin, but I’m learning to recognize those aspects and delegate them.

          1. Having a full-time job, wife and 16 month old daughter definitely makes it tough. I have to be super organized and efficient with my time….a lot of late nights when everyone else is asleep. But I love it like you do, so it makes it all worth it. One way I try to keep the joy alive is by playing one of my games, at least once a month, for fun. I play just to play, no analyzation or in-depth study of what is right and wrong with the game, just play. I was wondering if you had any things/routines that you do to give you a boost? Also, how did you handle things when you had a full-time job? Any insights would be helpful. Thanks Jamey.

          2. Denny: That’s neat that you try to play one of your games just for fun once a month. I play a lot of games, but I rarely get the chance to play my own published games. I’m the most invigorated when I have a few uninterrupted hours just for game design.

            When I had a full-time job, I basically worked from 9:30-5:30, came home, ate dinner, then worked until midnight on Stonemaier stuff. Both jobs bled into each other at times too.

          3. So Denny asked you about how you handled it all when you had a different job, but going back even farther, how did you originally learn about and organize your first game(s) before you really knew much about everything (prototyping, testing, art, funding, production) involved? Were there any resources that were especially helpful to you or that gave you an extra bit of hope to continue and build your business to what it is today?
            Thanks!
            Jared Richardson

          4. “how did you originally learn about and organize your first game(s) before you really knew much about everything (prototyping, testing, art, funding, production) involved? Were there any resources that were especially helpful to you or that gave you an extra bit of hope to continue and build your business to what it is today?”

            Those are great questions. At the time, I was kind of learning on the fly. There weren’t any comprehensive resources at that time that covered all of those elements, while now there are resources like James Mathe’s blog that really help. At the time, the biggest help I got was from Panda, my manufacturer.

  9. Great input! That’s the thing that I was explaining multiple times to different people. You just hit 10 of 10 with your post!

  10. The testing part is so critical. But thanks for posting this. Maybe it will prompt me or another to take those first steps to bring an idea into tangible form.

  11. A truly great article thanks Jamey. There is a long, challenging and thrilling process in bringing an idea to market, which is not for the faint hearted, lazy, starry-eyed dreamer. My engineer father who is a brilliant ‘ideas’ man recently paid me the greatest compliment. He actually acknowledged my hard work, determination and gutsiness in spending the last 12months developing and prototyping my high tech camping product ready to launch via crowdfunding, by saying he admired me because he had never taken any of his ideas beyond sketch stage. Having this (my dad’s) understanding of what it takes, helps me deal with the many frustrations of real product (ideas) development. High Five to all the REAL creators out there!

    1. Wow, Julie! That’s great. Both parts.
      I know how rare and precious it is to hear a parent’s praise for surpassing his/her achievements. In addition to your High Five on creating camping product, here’s one to father for further encouraging you.

  12. Every once in awhile someone will approach a software group. They’ll say, “I have this awesome idea for a world-changing app!”. But instead of building the product, they want someone else to program the app for little to no compensation.

    This post is what I’ll show them next time. Ideas are cheap, execution is expensive.

  13. That’s something I wrote a year ago preparing me (and my GF) for demoing some protos at an event of Madrid (before getting published 3 times in this year)

    https://www.llamadice.com/diseno/tu-idea-no-vale-nada/ (MLK punchline is “I have an idea… for a boardgame)

    Unfortunately it’s only in Spanish but more or less say the same. Your idea is worthless until you make a crappy prototype and put it into a table and that’s something that every designer should take into account because everybody have ideas, but only the brave (or the senseless) make it happen.

  14. This article resonates with me as well, Jamey. I’d like to offer another aspect: everyone here agrees that turning an idea into something tangible is *hard*. And that’s certainly true. But it is also gratifying! Over two years ago a friend of mine and me had an idea and it was a bumpy road turning that into actual designs and then physically producing these designs. But we did it and just completed fulfillment of our first Kickstarter campaign. We made something real. It feels awesome!

  15. Really like this post Jamey. When I read your post I saw myself was on the same situation 6 years ago when I just paid attention to my ideas and ignore the execution part. It took me a while to be a realistic person than just a day-dreamer.

    Afterall, ideas are cheap. Know how to make prototype and test the idea and how to sell/marketing the product later on is much much harder.

  16. Hello Jamey, This is Fabrizio from Italy.

    I have been following your blog for more than a year now and this post found its why right to the core of what I am experiencing right now.
    I recently singled out the idea out of many others and I am trying to move from designing to execution.

    The issue I’m dealing with is “finding the right people”, in particular I’m always concerned that they might be not “right” enough. I am working on a smart luggage project and this will embed all the Italian quality design it deserves… except that feeling I have when I meet designers that they might not be able to carry out the great job I’d like too.
    Entrepreneurial tales always describe this moment when the guy with the idea magically meets the nerd-tech-creative guy and a sweet partnership sees the light all of the sudden.
    I wonder if it always works that way.

    P.s. thank you so much for sharing contents that we really care about, aka situations real people can identify with

    1. Fabrizio: Thanks for sharing your struggles to find the right partners/freelancers. It can be hard to find the best fit for your company. I wish I had magical and practical solution for you, but I don’t! :) I think the best thing you can do is continue to talk to people about what you’re working on. I wouldn’t have my partnership my co-founder, Alan, if I hadn’t playtested Scythe with different groups of friends–it was a total surprise to me that he wanted to work on it with me.

  17. Love this post. I was used to be someone who was an ‘ideas’ person and it was almost as if I felt like I deserved some kind of recognition for this. How silly. I went through a lot of personal development, listening to the likes of Tony Robbins and Zig Ziglar to turn myself from an ideas person to an ‘action’ person. One of my favourite quotes is ‘done is better than perfect’.

  18. I’ve gotten this a lot too. Someone will come up to my table at a game convention (I sell RPG aid software): “I’ve got a great idea for a program. How about if I tell you my idea, and you write the program, and we split the money?” My response has always been “Better yet: you don’t tell me the idea, you write the program, and you keep ALL the money.” But they never want that. They’ve had an idea — and, special snowflake that they are, that idea is special and precious because it’s the one and only idea they’ve ever had. But they want someone else to do the heavy lifting.

    They never seem to get that the one thing I don’t have a shortage of is ideas. I have a shortage of time, money, even sometimes skill, but *never* ideas. I’d be happy if I had the capability to implement even 10% of the ideas I churn out in a single month. I’d have to be Microsoft. :p I’ve been told by authors that they get the same thing: people with a great idea for a book that they want someone else to write for them. I don’t know an author who hasn’t lamented that they think up great ideas for writing faster than they can write, and by the time they’ve finished one, they’ve come up with ideas for a dozen more.

    Ideas are a dime a dozen (or $25 for a package, if you’re Harlan Ellison). It’s the implementation that’s hard. Anyone can have ideas, and most people do, by the bucket full. Very few actually make something with them, and THAT is what matters.

  19. I really like this response: “Better yet: you don’t tell me the idea, you write the program, and you keep ALL the money.” It’s a little tongue-in-cheek, but you’re legitimately helping the person by saying that too, which is great.

  20. Completely agree. I have been telling this to people, and this is why since last year I started a tabletop development, prototyping and testing group in México. (The tabletop community in Mexico is growing and thriving).

    Mr. Stonemeier, would you mind if I write up some summaries of your articles for my community to read. Many of them do not speak neither read English; however, for them, knowing that they are already ahead of the game would mean a lot, specially if you said it.

  21. You hit a lot of stuff right on the head with this article. I’ve had thousands of “brilliant” ideas over the course of my young life. The problem is I never created a plan to actually implement any of those ideas. Now that I’ve been stuck in a 8-5 “career” job for the past 4 years at the age of 22 my soul feels like its rotting away. With the inspiration from you and a few other people in the space I’ve started my own company are in talks for my first publishing deal and are working on FINISHING a game even if it is an 18 card micro game. Because a terrible 18 card game is 100x better than a never published 3 hour long masterpiece of a game :)

  22. Hi Jamey,

    Thanks again for pointing me here this afternoon. I totally agree with all of what you’ve written in this post. Looking forward to the rest of this guide.

    Cheers,

    Ray

  23. Hi Jamey,

    I recently found your site and have been reading it voraciously. There’s so much great information! Thank you for sharing your experiences with us.

    I wasn’t sure where to put this question as I can’t find this topic specifically addressed, but it feels like it’s at home in the “Ideas” realm. Do you have any advice on licensing an existing IP for a game you have designed? I thought this would be a more common question, but I have been working on a Star Trek themed game for the last 5 years. It’s been extensively playtested and it is a quite unique. I know my odds of being able to acquire the license to try and make this game commercially are probably slim, but was wondering if there is advice out there on this?

    Thanks!

    1. Daniel: Thanks for reading! :)

      I have limited experiences with IPs. The main case I’ve learned from is Scythe, where Jakub had started to build his 1920+ world, and I asked him if I could have the board game rights (in exchange for a royalty). In that case, I didn’t design the game until I had secured the rights, so it’s a little different than your situation.

      I also don’t know much about Star Trek licenses in general, other than that it seems like multiple companies have Star Trek rights, so it sounds like they haven’t sold the board game rights to one individual company. So I would suggest sending a proposal (maybe through an entertainment lawyer or agent who can talk to the right person) to the company that owns the general Star Trek rights. I wish I could be more specific, but I’ve never targeted an IP that big!

  24. I love your blog and videos…probably the most in depth resource on game design, self publishing on the web. I have spent about 40 hours this week turning my game idea that’s been mulling around in my head for a few months into a very playable prototype. Spent hours learning Adobe Illustrator, printing out the board and pieces, cutting them and gluing them to cardboard. Played it tonight with my girlfriend and although there were some clunky parts that we tweaked during play, we had a lot of fun playing it! I will be digging through all your vids and blog posts more on this journey for my own game. Thanks for sharing your experience, it really means a lot. (Also I’m a fan of SM games, can’t wait to play Charterstone).

    Thanks,

    Matt

  25. The information you provide is very helpful Jamey. Thanks! I recently designed and created a full prototype of my boardgame. I also had my family and a few friends test it out and they enjoyed it. I wasn’t sure how to get it noticed more or possibly published because I never done it before. I feel more knowledgeable and confident about moving forward with my game to hopefully make it into something more. One person who playtested even asked was it already in stores? I was surprised to hear that.

  26. I’m the person behind TableMaster. (it’s a program to roll stuff up for games … I call it an “everything generator”) This is actually the second time around for my little company; I shut down and gafiated for a while, which turned out to be over a decade, in the 90s. The “I have this idea…” thing even happens to tiny software companies. I vividly remember being at a convention, and this guy comes up to my booth with his Idea with a capital I.Before I could get a word in edgewise, he’d gone on for several minutes about how great his idea was (not *what* it was, mind you). He finally finished up with “So what if I tell you the idea, and you write the program, and we split the profits?” He was horribly disappointed when I said “Even better, how about this: you keep the idea, you write the program yourself, and you get *all* the profits!” Because, of course, he didn’t want to do any of the heavy lifting.

    It never ceases to amaze me: Someone thinks their idea which they can explain in five minutes is on a par, value-wise, with my labor which requires hundreds of hours for even the simplest project. For example, I have a little program called TextJiggler that I give away as a promo freebie. The idea was simple: Capitalize words randomly, or in certain ways. (it’s handy for use with those fonts that have variants of the same character in upper- and lower-case) That one sentence was the idea; the program was a week’s full-time work. I have more *ideas* than I know what to do with. So does any writer, artist, designer, or any other flavor of creative person. Ideas fall out of the sky. (except for Harlan Ellison, he has to buy his from a little old lady in Schenectady, for $25 a dozen)

    In my less charitable moments, I think that maybe it’s because someone like that has only had this one idea, ever, in their entire life, so of course they think it’s the most valuable thing in the world. And they’re sure that everyone else is as idea-poor as they are, and is just waiting to steal their idea from them and then do the “easy” part of making a zillion dollars off it. As I said, in my less charitable moments. :p

    Anyway, I’ve recently done an interesting twist on the “first make a prototype” thing. I’m a computer programmer, not a game designer. That’s why my company is Wintertree Software, not Wintertree Game Studios. But I recently found myself in need of a game. It’s a long story, but basically, now I’m a game publisher, or at least I will be. I’ve been a gamer for decades, but even so, the thought of just sitting down and designing a RPG from scratch, despite me having enough *ideas* to fill one up ten times over, was just too daunting.

    So what I did … I bought one. I found a small game that had a system that I really liked, and not much support from the author, who was focused on other things and I bought it.

    What I bought wasn’t the game I envision. It wasn’t even the game it is today, though that’s still at least half notes-to-self and some serious concerns about how the combat system works. But it was a game … it was *something* instead *nothing* — particularly the screen full of nothing I’d have otherwise been staring at, trying to make a game. The screen that, in at least a metaphorical sense, I’ve been staring at since high school, because I’m an inveterate tinkerer with games. I went from decades of staring at a blank piece of paper and doing nothing to considering doing a Kickstarter this summer. All because I bought a game.

    It’s *always* easier to edit than to write fresh.

    So if you have an idea, write it down. Rough out how it should work. Write half a page about it. Then you can start editing, expanding, tweaking, and changing. The game as I’ve developed it has about 10x the word count of the game that I bought. (naturally, there is going to be some severe editing taking place later; right now, I’m trying to put words in, not take them out) It has an infinitely greater word count than all the games I had ideas for that never made it out of my head.

    And remember William Shakespeare.

    His plays weren’t original ideas. In many cases, they were just variants on other plays popular at the time. It wasn’t his ideas that made the difference. It was his *execution* — what he did with those ideas. A thousand other playwrights had similar ideas, maybe even better ideas. We don’t know their names. We’ve never seen their plays. But the one guy, the one with the best execution, has been famous for centuries.

  27. This is startlingly universal knowledge, it seems.
    I am returning to game design as an outlet after many years and I have total belief in the core of this. I’ve seen it in action in film and publishing. I’ve personally had more ideas in both worlds than I know what to do with, and even the number of ideas can be it’s own roadblock (how do you focus on one long enough to follow through when they are all “brilliant?”)
    But in both those worlds getting things finished is its own reward. Producing and delivering a film is like climbing Everest four times – each of pre-production, production, post production and going to market are enormous tasks that can only be completed in tiny parcels of tasks – one step at a time up that mountain (and then again for the next stage), but a completed film is watchable by many a dream about a film is watchable by one.
    Writing a book – even a first draft – is so much more fulfilling than wanting to write a book. An editor can work with a crummy word-salad first pass. But if what you have is an idea, they’ll tell you to come back when you have filled the blanks between the first and last pages. I can only imagine selling a book is satisfying… still working on that.

    1. The problem is that so many people don’t want to write; they want to have written.

      They have this idea … maybe the only one they’ve ever had. They envision seeing their idea in print, a glorious finished novel. They envision the adulation of their friends and even strangers. They imagine how good it would be to be a Real Author(TM) instead of just some dude with an idea. It isn’t the writing itself that attracts them, or the feeling of writing — it’s what they expect to gain through that writing, instead.

      That brings us back to the “I’ll tell you the idea, you write the book/program/game/movie” thing: They don’t want to write — they don’t even understand that’s a reward in itself, or feel that it is one. They want the rewards of having written. So they want someone else to do the work, while they obtain those rewards.

      I have spent entirely too long writing programs that other people wanted me to write, not ones I wanted to write. Anyone who has ever written, programmed, painted, or done anything else creative for a living knows exactly what I mean. Doing your own stuff — the things that speak to your soul instead of your wallet — is glorious fun. Not the result — the process itself. The feeling that you’re creating something that didn’t exist yesterday. (I think we all have a stack a mile high of things we’d love to do if we ever had the time)

      Some people, though, don’t feel that way. They don’t actually find writing more fulfilling than wanting to write — the only thing they would find fulfilling is having written.

      And they’ll never understand why someone else doesn’t want to do the writing for them.

  28. Great article, love the contrast of “your idea is brilliant” and “your idea is worthless”. I think until someone sits down and does the hard yards of creating something they won’t truly understand the the idea of “your idea is worthless”.

  29. If wishes were horses, all beggars would ride
    But like plans and ideas, so many untried
    The accolades and rewards, that will be received
    Shall be an acquittal, for what was truly achieved

  30. I want to thank you for writing this. I am the customer service person at Looney Labs, and I can’t tell you how often I’ve wished I had an easy way to explain this to people. BTW, I’m working on our online FAQ, and I’m going to be linking over to your pages, since the questions about how to design a game or how to get a game published are even more numerous than the inquiries about whether we’ll publish their game for them. (Though this attitude is the most irritating/hilarious one).

  31. I have a game designed that I’ve easily created and modified at least 4-5 different times over the years, have play tested several places, and made modifications based on feedback. I’ve also re-written and re-drawn all of the elements to the game several times, art and rules. When I started, there was no such thing as the internet.

    Now I’m going to be serious about finishing it through kickstarter. AFTER I finish reading everything you’ve posted. Thank you, and this particular article made me feel that I haven’t wasted my time.

  32. This is very well said. I have a list of ideas, and coming up with new ones are very easy, but getting the work done is the difficult part. I’ll admit that there was a time that I thought just coming up with the idea warrants a big portion of the credit, but that’s not how it works!

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