Sep 10, 2012

"Kids Want It": Sharing Ideas is the Root of Synergy

"Kids want it." That's what my daughter said, clutching her little pink coat around her waist. She was two years old, and I was picking her up from her Montessori pre-school. It took me probably fifteen minutes and a teacher/interpreter to make out the full meaning of her complaint. Another child, with an identical coat, (two sizes smaller,) had taken her coat by accident from the coat rack which had delayed my child from going outside until the other coat could be swapped out... and an hour after the incident, she was still protesting in the only words she could grapple from her limited vocabulary, "kids want it," muttered with an indignant pout and the clutching of her own pink coat.

It's become our family's inside joke. The other day, we were discussing the sharing of ideas, (and the hesitancy of some to share ideas,) and we summed up our opinion on the subject with the repeat of "kids want it." It never fails, when you're in a discussion with other writers, that inevitably a new writer will chirp up with the worry that, in submitting their book to publishers/agents, their book will be plagiarized, because, well, "kids want it." But guess what? Kids don't want it. And in fact, to horde your ideas is to stymie your own creativity. Here. I'm gonna give you proof of that fact. I'm gonna throw out a brilliant gem of a story, and let's see how many people run away with it. Here goes:

Okay, there's this kid, an orphan, and he lives with foster parents who don't "get" him. He doesn't fit in, so he's sent away to a school, only he doesn't fit in there either, and people are trying to persecute him, because he's so different, but he triumphs and turns his deficits into gifts.

I know. I rocked your world. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I totally lifted that from HARRY POTTER. Or is it A LITTLE PRINCESS? or is it SCHOOLED by Gordon Korman? or maybe A WRINKLE IN TIME?

That's my point. No one is going to run away with YOUR idea and write the book that you wanted to write. Even if the idea is less generic than my outline. No one needs your ideas. They've got plenty of their own. As far as lifting your entire book? Yeah, well, they could... but why would they? An editor wants a writer with a track record and an agent wants a writer who's already making money. It's just not worth stealing your book and passing it off as someone else's, especially if you've submitted your manuscript to a billion other outlets. There are just too many witnesses and your first book probably isn't all that good anyway.

(Moving off point only a smidge.) My husband and I had a date last night to see the movie, THE WORDS, about a struggling writer who finds an old manuscript, so well written it moves him to tears, which he then passes off as his own, going on to win accolades and awards. Besides the paradox the movie creates, (a writer reading from his - autobiographical - novel about a guy who plaigarizes and is found out) the story was pretty uninspired. The dialogue was boring. The portrayal of a writer's life was laughable. The portrayal of the publishing industry was silly. The prop manuscript was ridiculous. The story in a story in a story was... okay, that was almost cool... except for the whole paradox thing.

But I digress... simply to say, that movie launched another discussion about the sharing of ideas. The aforementioned daughter is taking an art class. She loves this class and the teacher whom she has had before. Much of the success of this class is due to the classes willingness to share ideas! This is the root of synergy. One artist will describe their plans for their next art assignment. Another artist throws out suggestions for expansion. A third artist might latch on to a grain of an idea from the first artist and incorporate that into their own project. The first artist sees something in the theme of the fourth artists' design which ignites an idea for a theme in their own project. By the end of the semester of that first art class, the entire group was firing on all twelve cylinders, everyone setting the bar higher for the others, and the others, being equal to the challenge, striving to entertain their fellow students, which became a motivating catalyst! The work being produced by this class was amazing! Because instead of clutching their little pink coats to themselves and scowling and proclaiming "kids want it", they were open armed and sharing and didn't concern themselves with the notion that someone else might take their idea and run away with it.

It's too bad most businesses don't operate under this concept. Everyone is so concerned about credit for an idea. We see it in patent protections in industry. We see it in the sciences with the frenetic push to be the first to publish discoveries. How many advances have been stymied by a reluctance to share an idea that might have sparked a thought in another lab, that might have inspired a different office to incite a movement in a different quarter of industry, to inspire a writer to pursue a democratic business model... to write a novel... not for a market, but for pure entertainment... that inspires someone... to pick up a book for the first time... and learn to read... and share their own ideas. Ahhhhh. That's synergy.

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