Bad ideas, big thoughts, terrible ideas.
Fuck ideas; they’re the best.
At the SCA, they’re also everything—and if doing this course has shown me just one thing, it’s how goddamned much I love them. I love having them, hearing them, seeing them; I like putting them in my mouth or sleeping on them. Some of them even smell good. Even the bad ones are ok. Ideas are sick.
As far as good ideas go, the jury’s still out as to whether I’ve had one. I may have; I may not. Who knows.
But—I am learning what it feels like to have a bad one.
A ‘bad one’ isn’t just any old bad idea; it’s easy to have one of those. ‘Knife-sponge’, for example. No idea what it is, but it doesn’t sound useful. What good could possibly come of putting a knife and a sponge together? It reeks of ‘bad idea’. (Unless it was a very specific sponge designed to clean your knife, in which case I guess maybe it’s not that bad).
Anyway—no. I’m not talking about those. I’m talking about the ones that seem like good ideas; the ones that act all nice and schmoozy and seductive, before turning out—hours later—to be fucking terrible. They whisper sweet nothings in your ear and fluff your ego, hoping that you’ll bring them into existence.
There is nothing more annoying than feeling you’re onto something world-changing, only to discover a couple of hours or days later that you absolutely aren’t and you might as well have used your brain and your time for something of tangible value—like putting the bins out or arranging the things in your fridge by colour. (Yes I am writing this from my kitchen).
At times, my list of amazing bad ideas feels overwhelming; I’ve definitely had more bad ideas than good.
But, recently, the chemical reaction has shifted. The all-too-familiar rush of excitement, that announces a mini eureka moment, has stopped prompting me to go glory-basking and, instead, triggers more red flags than a can of Lynx Africa.
I no longer trust my own ‘good’ ideas and, whenever they come knocking, rather than flinging open the door and hugging them, I peer through the keyhole before opening up even a fraction. And even then I’ll have a shotgun ready.
Learning, I believe they call it.
It’s like being a rat in a video game, the object of which is to successfully eat crumbs off the floor without being poisoned. I’m a hungry lil fella and I really want to eat those crumbs. I want to eat them so much that I tell myself their safe, then gobble the lot excitedly. I start thinking about how the next few days are going to be great because I’m so full of crumbs. But then I die.
Rather than figuring out which crumbs to avoid (because who can tell a good crumb from a bad one!), I’m learning how to figure out which are good and which are bad. How to test them, and be patient.
Of course, there will be many more fuckups to come—repetitive failure’s the name of the game!—but, whatever, it’s fun.
Although it’s oh so much more fun to succeed—and to have great ideas that solve problems and change things.
I just want to have ideas 24/7. One a minute—or even one a second. Big fucking massive ones; as big as whales or wind turbines or giant knives shaped like sponges.
For anyone who has made it this far, here are a few things I’ve learned about how to test an idea to see whether it’s a goodie or a baddie.
Make the ads.
Many ideas are oh-so-clever and just simply brilliant—until you actually figure out the specifics of them. Get them down quick as you can, and start wrestling with the various parts to figure out what’s what.
Show the work to someone who works in advertising.
They might be useful. But always be aware of who you’re showing it to. People have different tastes, and no one’s always right. In some cases, your idea might be good but you’re not communicating it well! Or it might just be an idea that doesn’t work until you make it a certain way. Whatever the outcome, make sure you understand why they’ve said what they have.
Show the work to someone who doesn’t work in advertising.
But be prepared to ignore their advice. These people are prone to being suckered in by a flashy or clever-sounding headline or visual trick. They might not be thinking about what the work is communicating, so stay wary. A trick to avoid this is to not tell them anything about the project before you show them. Good luck.
The overnight test.
The mother of all tests. Sure to bring fine clarity to any mess—if you have the time!
Beware the good feeling.
If your idea feels great, be wary of it. Don’t let it in straight away. Make it sit outside for a while. If it’s a good idea, it will still be there the next day—and the one after that.