We don’t like to be the first to admit it and often we’re the very last, but it has to be said that everyone harbours what they think is a great idea, but it’s never going to work.
Artists, especially, have frequent flights of fancy that are wildly impractical, poorly thought through, based on self-delusional fantasy, wishful thinking or sheer unalloyed optimism, which have a likelihood of success infinitesimally close to zero. That doesn’t stop us dreaming our dreams and being sustained by our beloved, but ultimately stupid, ideas, though.
How do you protect yourself from your own unworkable schemes?
As far as I know, there is only one way to prevent yourself from hanging on to an idea that can’t possibly work and that is to try it out. See if it does work. Try to make it work. Get the proof.
The good thing about attempting to realise your implausible, whimsical, imaginative belief is that you will either confirm that the idea is, indeed, a poor plan, allowing you to discard it completely and move on, or else you will find a way to learn from your failure. Alternatively, you may find a way to make the idea work, despite the myriad obstacles you discover. At least you will always have the dignity of being able to say you sincerely tried.
Sometimes just sticking with the idea, doggedly and tenaciously, is enough to help you find a way to turn it into a workable idea. There’s a lot to be said for figuring things out as you go. Very hard problems are often surmounted because the person thinking about them refused to give up and go quietly.
Is the fact that we all cherish at least one very bad idea an argument against having wholly infeasible, nonviable, impossible, other-worldly, visionary ideas? No. I don’t think so. I think it supports the opposite case, in fact.
Some of our best ideas ever, as a species, seemed like designs that couldn’t possibly work, at first. In fact, without daring to dream these cherished ideas and without the will to attempt them and find ways to realise them, the human race would make no progress at all. Our arts would not have developed in any significant way. The same applies to our technology. Humanity would be all the poorer because of our refusal to harbour mad, improbable, but cherished plans and ideas.
Some of the joy of nutty notions is experiencing the hope that they might come to fruition in reality. Imagining the moment when something works, against all odds, is a very happy thought. If you believe in envisioning and shaping the universe by what you call forth from it, just thinking the thoughts might be enough to bring them closer to experiential reality. It’s a dubious proposition, I admit and one that is not easily susceptible to rigorous experimental proof, but also one that is exceedingly difficult to disprove.
In holding on to our crazy, brainstorm precipitates, we get to experience the playful journey involved in trying to make them manifest, tangible and less fugitive. Besides, the admiration we can earn, for honestly trying to achieve something arguably Quixotic, is an added bonus. Failures can be heroic.
Yes, there will be those that hold us in contempt for our patent folly, but don’t forget that our critics also hold cherished ideas that won’t work. Nobody is exempt or immune. Our flashes of implausible inspiration and imperfect insight nevertheless buoy us up and help us through what would otherwise be a bleak, meaningless existence.
Everybody has a bad idea that won’t work, but so what? If we didn’t have those, we’d never discover the good ideas that will work.