Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Radical Writing Advice: Follow your Urinetown Idea

If you're not a theater buff, you may be thinking, "What the heck is she talking about now?!?"; or  maybe , "WTF, Dot?!?"

"Urinetown? Excuse me. But what?"

But whether you know what "Urinetown" is or not, don't worry, you know I'll tell you what I mean.

See, "Urinetown" was someone's "huh?" idea. I mean, accept it. A play with 'urine' in its title? Let alone as its title?! A play about urine? It's true. I'm not making this up. It has been a very popular play, it ran on Broadway, it is now being done in theaters around the country; around the world.
From The Broadway Musical website, here is the synopsis of the play:

In an attempt to regulate water consumption, Urinetown has outlawed the use of private toilets. The citizenry must use public, pay-per-use amenities owned and operated by Urine Good Company, a malevolent corporation run by the corrupt Caldwell B. Cladwell.

See? I told you. A play about peeing.

"Get to your point, Dot." I can hear you. And that's okay.

My point is that this was someone's "bad idea." Well, obviously not a "bad" idea; but an idea people may have scoffed at or doubted or thought ridiculous. People were perhaps reacting much as some of you may be reacting. Incredulous that anyone would even think of it, let alone actually do it.

But they did. They wrote the script. They were able to get it on the stage and even on a Broadway stage.

So this week's advice is to look at all of your ideas. Don't judge them; look at them. Write them on a piece of paper or type them up in an electronic document or an Excel spreadsheet. The what or how isn't important. What is important is writing out your uncensored ideas.

See, sometimes these little germs of ideas aren't germs at all. They are gems. (Okay, go ahead and groan. I didn't plan that; it leaked out as I was typing this up and I thought about deleting it. Then I realized, as corny as it is and that I would certainly groan if I read this written by someone else, it is a little ge(r)m.)

And these little germs can be sensitive. If we squash them too quickly they may disappear. And we will never know what gems they could've become through our alchemical process with words and editing and sharing. We may lose our own "Urinetown" idea.

Start yourself a file and give it a title which works for you. It may be a file with 3x5 notecards, an electronic file, a manilla envelope. Whatever helps you keep it light and keep it real. Call them snippets, or germs/gems, or flutters, or talking frogs, or drooling clowns. Then periodically go through them. One of my "catchers" is a special folder in one of my email accounts. I have a certain thing I put in the subject line and the email with whatever it contains is filtered to that file. So I send myself "notes" because I tended to lose the paper ones or they would get buried in journals.

What is your Urinetown idea?



Just for fun:  In my research about Urinetown (I was looking for a "fact" I'd heard but couldn't corraborate), I came across this webpage with "10 Dumb Ideas that Made A Lot of Money;"

I know some of these things may be cherished favorites for some people - but I love this list. Among the items are Pet Rocks, Billy the Big Mouth Bass, Antenna Balls, and Doggles. Check it out. I don't think I'd call them "dumb ideas," but I might call them seemingly silly or ridiculous ideas. Which made someone a lot of money.