This isn’t a review of Scott Belsky’s book Making Ideas Happen — because I’ve only read 4 pages of it so far. I’m going to read the other pages, I believe, it’s just that I haven’t yet. A few things have slowed my progress: the book is made out of paper — indeed, it’s a hardcover even. Thus, the book is not on my phone or my Kindle when I’m floating about looking to read a page or two. Also, said physical book has a dust jacket with weird, rough-feeling varnish, which kind of freaks me out and every time I pick it up, I spend some time thinking about this varnish choice. Finally, the cover uses the graphic trope of puzzle pieces in the jacket design, which I find shocking — for its designer to have even suggested something so hackneyed is shocking, but to have had it accepted by the multiple parties no doubt involved and have it go through all the way to production is just downright odd and disturbing. I thought we all had gotten over the puzzle pieces as the best visual metaphor ever thing a long time ago, like in the late 80s. But I digress. Actually, I haven’t even begun anything from which to digress.
In the few pages of the book that I have read, Mr. Belsky posits that lots of people, especially creative ones, have lots of ideas, but the problem is that people don’t follow through on these ideas. (Thus the book is about how to do so.) That sounds very right and true to me. Seth Godin talks about something similar all the time.
Today, this all happened in real life.
So, generally, I sit my office. I do my design stuff. Sometimes I have ideas, such as for art projects, or weird computer applications that have to do with poodles, or infographics or social movements, but usually I just sit in my office and keep doing my design stuff. Sometimes I write the ideas down on my whiteboard or one of many physical and electronic lists that swirl around me in billowing clouds.
Last year, I had this idea, to turn this historic tower in my town into a camera obscura. I don’t know where this idea came from exactly — a combination of wanting to do a community-centric art project, a love of building cameras, an appreciation of Abe Morell‘s and Jo Babcock‘s work, a general spirit of “hey, I should make some art!”.
This time, I actually acted on the idea, at least so far as applying for a grant to do the project from my local arts organization. I got the grant. And guess what! This means I have to Make the Idea Happen.
So, I’m doing this art event tomorrow. All week I’ve been emailing people I love and like but never bother to reach out to (because I’m reclusive-ish). Many have written back!
Today, I left my office and went to do some preparation. First I went to the Arts Council’s office to get a key to the building that will house my camera. In doing so, I went to a neighborhood of my town I’d never been in before, I found out about all these different city offices that are housed over there and I met someone new from the Arts Council. I already felt more civically engaged — and it was only 11 am.
Next, I went to the site where I’ll make the camera and set a few things up. While I was doing so, a bunch of people — from families to tourists to a group of developmentally disabled teens on a field trip — came up to me and asked questions about the historic building and what I was doing. I was able to let them see inside the usually locked structure, which made them really happy. All people I’d never talk to usually, especially if I stayed in my office. Chock up another few points for community engagement.
Then I went and walked around the neighborhood and put up some posters for the event. I talked to a man at the bus stop who was ranting about wanting 50¢ and giving people who wouldn’t give it to him a really hard time (I gave him 50¢ and he didn’t say thank you. Hmf!) I talked to a Haitian mum and her daughter at another bus stop. A sporty young woman walking by smiled at me as I sat on the grass playing with my masking tape. All of this does not happen on usual days. In the office.
And guess what! It was kind of energizing. Yeah, big deal, talking to a few random strangers, but the thing of actually DOING an art project, of engaging with the people in my neighborhood (sing to the tune of the Mr. Rodgers’ song) really, actually was quite nice. I’m excited about tomorrow. If you’re reading this and in the area, come by! There’s more info about the project here.
OK, this is all very simple, even naïve, but I think I am starting to get it. Think I’ll make a point of making more ideas happen.