Ideas Are Cheap
One of my favorite writers is Jim Butcher. Butcher is best known for his series, The Dresden Files, about a private detective working side-by-side with the Chicago PD who also happens to be a wizard. Okay, it kind of sounds lame when you word it like that, but I assure you it is quite a page turner.
A lesser-known, but amazing series that Butcher released is, for me, a much better story. And I don’t mean the actual stories themselves, although they are great, but the story of how the series came to be.
The story goes that some years ago Jim was attending a writing seminar where he encountered a fellow writer who, rather pretentiously, insisted that writing cannot be taught.
Said writer believed that good writing was more about talent and awaiting the Muse to float from the heavens and do her bidding… in other words, writing is mystical; you either have it or you don’t.
Naturally Jim disagreed. He taught that writing is more about skill. It’s about banging away, crummy draft after crummy draft, until you shape it into something amazing. And there is nothing special about skill -- it can be developed with practice.
Butcher also believed that ideas are cheap, because a great writer can take the most mundane idea and, through pure will and hard work, turn it into something great. But a bad writer can take the greatest idea in the world and squander it away.
Writing, he said, is not about talent or luck; it’s about good old-fashioned hard work.
With that, the challenger actually laid a bet at Butcher’s feet: “I’ll bet you could not write a good story based on a terrible idea.”
Jim not only accepted the bet, but much like a poker game, raised him as well. “Not only could I write a good story with a lame idea,” he said, “I could write a good story with TWO lame ideas… and you can even pick the ideas.”
The challenger thought for a minute and presented two seemingly incongruous concepts, Pokemon and the Lost Roman Legion.
With that, Jim went off and began to write…
In 2004, Butcher published the book that resulted from the bet, Furies of Calderon. Furies was an immediate hit with fans and critics alike. The book proved so successful, it became the basis for an entire series — six books in all — called the Codex Alera.
That's right. Jim Butcher published a six-book fantasy series that made truckloads of money based on bet about friggin' Pokemon. By the way, I have read the entire series (and it's wonderful) and there isn't a sign of Pikachu anywhere to be found. Just sayin'.
“Nice story, AJ, but what,” you may ask, “does that have to do with me?”
A lot of members of WA feel like they have to have some kind of special talent to build an affiliate marketing business. I hear the fear and excuses all the time.
- I’m not a writer.
- I can’t do this.
- I’m terrible at grammar.
- I can’t think of anything to say.
- Whaddaya mean I gotta write 1000 words?
- I guess I’m destined to work a job for the rest of my life.
- This just isn’t for me.
- And the list goes on and on and on.
But here’s the deal. None of that matters, because this business in not based on talent. It’s based on good communication and good old fashioned hard work.
You come up with an idea for an article, you dig in and do your research, and you combine all of your new-found knowledge into something unique in your own words. It's not mysticism; it's sweat.
In other words, you do the affiliate marketing version of combining Pokemon and the Lost Roman Legion.
So, you see, it’s not about talent. You CAN do this. Now, go forth and write your next masterpiece. :-)
Leave a comment below and share your experience of combining two or more unlikely ideas to create something new.