by Maggie Marr
One of my most favorite TED talks was given by Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love. Within her speech she discusses nurturing creativity. She also talks about where we get our ideas. It is interesting to me, not only where we get our ideas as writers, but how we assign value to those ideas. How do we determine what is a good idea vs a not good idea? I tend to turn to the marketplace in determining the value of an idea. Will it sell? Is there a market for this type of material? Is it worth my time to work on this project?
The problem with allowing the marketplace to determine the value of a project is that the marketplace shifts and changes. In a way, determining the value of an idea based on the marketplace is like swimming through a stick of butter. Really when you get down to it, letting the marketplace determine value is just that odd. As a professional writer (and by professional I mean someone who makes their living through writing) I've been trained to determine the value of an idea based on whether it is marketable. What does the one sheet look like? How many books will it sell? How many eyeballs will the show bring to the network? Who owns those eyeballs? Do they have disposable income? How many tickets will sell opening weekend? Shockingly this really isn't the best way for a creative person to decide if an idea is a good one or not. The market is only one of multiple ways to assign value to an idea.
I find that as I grow as a writer and a creative person I have ideas that are ideal for the marketplace and I have ideas that are ideal for me. Sometimes they overlap and sometimes they don't. Of course my marketable ideas get priority because when I have a project that hits in the marketplace I can feed my family, pay my rent, buy my groceries...you know...little inconsequential things like pay for life. But there are other ideas. Deeper ideas. Ideas that I know are not easy to sell. Those deeper, tougher ideas are often the most interesting of ideas and also the most challenging. How do I divide my time? I write the projects that are paid for, first. Then I work on those that I believe has a great chance of selling. Finally, I work on the projects that are pet projects; projects that make me a better writer, a better creator, a better storyteller, and ultimately, I like to believe, a better person.
Enjoy Elizabeth's TED talk.
Maggie Marr is currently working on a new manuscript. She is the author of Hollywood Girls Club and Secrets of The Hollywood Girls Club. She also wrote the television pilots Sexology and Hart & Stone. You can follow her pursuits both marketable and personal at www.maggiemarr.com