Inspiration can strike at the most awkward times. Inopportune moments are when my muse strikes, causing me the agony of looking lost and confused (or angry) in public. I'm certain innocent passersby are struck with fear when my muse sneaks up, taps me on the shoulder and yells, "BOO!". Not because they can hear her, but because I jump, quite high, into the air and usually tumble backwards. My husband, dear heart that he is, looks at me and says, "So you have an idea. Do it." "Yes, but..." "No buts. Just do it."
He's so practical that way.
But what if you see something (be it story or otherwise) that you thought was yours alone? You walk through a store and there, on the shelf in front of you, is "your" book idea, staring back at you. Don't do what I've done in the past and roll your eyes, mutter under your breath at how "lucky" they must be to already have an agent, or wonder aloud and quite angrily how that blasted PUBLISHED author sneaked into your computer and carried off YOUR idea? This will just get you more of those awkward glances and nervous murmurings by those passersby you already frightened away with your high jumping antics.
That happened to me last night. I am in the process of starting a small business as well as pursuing the writing life. It's a tough job (especially when I work 61/2 hours a day as a receptionist on top of all this planning and dreaming). My husband and I wandered into a shop and there, on every wall, at every turn!, I saw an idea that I'd had. Ideas that I thought were unique to me.
First, I jumped. Then I looked at my husband and grumbled. Then I saw something on another wall and grumbled again, louder and with a little more force. "I thought I was the only one who thought like this? I've never seen it before except in my head." I pouted and kicked at a stone that wasn't there.
"Well, look at it this way," he said in his calm, rational and most irritating voice. "It just means that you're unique and people who shop in places like this will be the ones to buy what you create."
Of course, at that moment, it was the last thing I wanted to hear. But after sleeping on these words of wisdom, I see them for what they are: glistening dew drops on my otherwise wilted lawn.
I've seen ideas of mine on the backs of published books. I've even seen one of my own characters look back at me on from the movie screen. I'm learning, slowly but surely, to not get offended or angry at these instances but to look at them from another angle. It just means I'm in good company. It means there are other people out there who "get" what I'm trying to accomplish with my writing and my art. And it also means that all those other people who are sitting in the theater, buying up the offending book, or purchasing the wares of another shop are exactly the types of people I'm hoping to reach with my work. It means I have an audience. And I'm quite glad it's not a mainstream one.
Does that mean I don't want the entire world to rush out and buy my every novel? Um, no. That would be crazier than the wild-eyed muttering I tend to do. Of course we want to be published and achieve critical acclaim. And some of us achieve that with the first book (or movie, or painting). But more often than not, we must start small, accumulating fans and supporters as they trickle in, who find us through friends of friends who enjoy what we do and who found us because what we do is similar to something someone else does.
Don't get offended or discouraged if you see a similar idea to yours already in the marketplace. Take it as a sign that you're on the right track. And remember that no matter how small the audience, it's still an audience. And people have the tendency to talk about what they like, return to places they enjoy, and bring others along for the ride!
Hang in there and keep creating,