One of my favorite quotes at the moment is from one of my favorite authors, Orson Scott Card: “Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them.”
From this I can safely attest that I am, at the very least, a writer. I have ideas. Good ones. At least, I think so. And at first that’s all that matters. Another great writer, Stephen King, said something along the lines of “First, write for yourself. Edit for your readers.”
In other words, if you have what turns out to be a lame idea, it might lead to a brilliant, reader-worthy piece of writing if you just write it for yourself and see where that lame idea takes you.
I had a lame idea once. (Well, more than once, but I’m going to focus on this specific instance). When I was thirteen I wanted to enter a film festival. So I recruited my brother and sister to help me put my vision into action.
A lot of good stories start with a writer or a filmmaker or a playwright thinking to themselves: “What if (fill in the blank) happened?” My fantastic “what if” was this: “What if a bowling ball, dropped from up high, tunneled its way through the earth and shot out in China?”
I was thirteen, okay?
It seemed pretty plausible at the time.
My brother said something along the lines of: “That’s the lamest idea ever.” But for some reason he still agreed to be in our video.
We found a bowling ball. My sister and I set up a camera, put on baggy T-shirts and skater beanies. We did one take of ourselves goofing off like knuckleheads: “Dude! I got this bowling ball!” “Awesome! Let’s throw it off of something!”
No one died, just so you know. My sister leaned over the fence and plonked the bowling ball into a pile of compost. We cheered like it was the coolest thing ever, then changed from our baggy T-shirts into some Asian garb we had gotten in Little Tokyo when we lived in L.A. We had some cold leftover pasta that passed for noodles in a pinch. We sat on the fence and pretended to be two Chinese field hands on our lunch break.
“Breaking News: earlier today, a bowling ball shot up out of a haystack in China.”
We won $100 in our first film festival. It seemed like a fortune at the time.
This is not our video. It’s probably even lamer, which is why I picked it: