my idea is not my identity you are not your idea

My Idea is not My Identity. And You are Not Your Ideas.

I see this “my idea” problem all the time with creatives, artists, makers, and muse-oriented folk. Artist gets an idea. Artist smeagols idea. Artist hoards idea and pampers idea until idea multiplies like black mold. Artist scares off — or kills off — anyone who comes anywhere near idea. Artist finally releases idea.

Idea flops because it’s covered in mold.

Here’s another scenario:

Artist gets hired onto a team. Or artist gets a salary as a permanent part of a team. Consultant / coach / collaborator is hired by team as an expert in a specific arena or discipline.

Artist pitches idea.

Consultant / coach / collaborator drastically improves idea.

Artist whines because his idea changed.


I am not my idea.

You’re not your ideas.

We think we are.

We think we need to smeagol ideas away like little ferret hoarders, like little radioactive squirrel pirates who need to protect our dragon gold.

But you’re not your ideas.

I’m not my idea.

See because the power of the artist is to bring abstract concepts into a concrete reality. Poetry makes ideas concrete. Paint makes ideas concrete. Story makes ideas concrete. Come to New York and you can spend entire weeks watching photographers take pictures of concrete.

You get a “what if…”

And then you make that “what if” a “here’s what happened.”

When you don’t, you shrivel.

That means:

1. You are not your idea and I am not my idea.

2. Your idea is not your only idea.

3. Your idea is not your best idea.

4. Your idea is not necessarily better than someone else’s idea.

5. Your idea is not perfect.

6. Therefore you and others can improve upon your idea…

7. …As it’s coming out…

8. …Or in sequels…

9. …And in later versions and renditions…

10. …Or in the ashes and scraps of a junked idea that you can frankenstein into something new.

Had a project a few years back in which I was hired as a story coach. Worked with a few screenwriters. One of them pitched an idea that was predominately voiceover. The story premise was solid, but as I’ve said elsewhere voiceover’s a lousy way to tell a story. Rather than celebrate the core story, this artist friend disowned his very good idea once the voiceover was scrapped. He ditched the principle of his idea for the method of his idea’s delivery.

Now I didn’t make the ultimate decision. I simply gave advice to the team as well as argumentation for why I gave advice the way that I did.

But this guy I respect disowned his idea once they decided to ditch the voiceover.

The project ended up being a really solid piece.

But “my precious” mindset took over because idea and identity were inseparable.

For this same project, I pitched somewhere between ten and twenty ideas, gave synopses and some treatments for several of those. All of them were rejected.

Was I hurt?


Because I’m a masochist?


Because the end story of the team was better than anything I pitched. None of my initial ideas were used. So what? Ideas are connected to truth and therefore infinite. No learning, free-thinking, reflective person has a finite number of good ideas.

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I’ve said it a million times:

Collaboration is
artistic delegation.

Therefore your idea is not your identity.

It’s just an idea.

It’s not capital “T” truth.

At best, it’s an idea we all share because it’s merely one truth connected to capital “T” truth.

Therefore the idea of intellectual property is absurd except as a defense for those who would use other people for financial gain.

And therefore you need to lighten up, practice generating and sharing more and more and MORE ideas, and making as many of them happen, regardless of how much you’re involved. THAT’S why I’m a fan of open source: because humanity benefits from the free flow of ideas and free speech.

The moment you get there is the moment you’ll find yourself much, much more productive than your peers.

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