18 November 2007

Why Do Some Ideas Last the Distance, and Others Don't?

My study is a study in chaos. I’m leaving for Singapore tomorrow, and then going on to London and The Netherlands. On my desk is a jumble of lists, reminders, papers, the Lonely Planet guide to Amsterdam, cups of half-drunk cold tea, more papers, and a huge tangle of chargers, leads and adapters for all the electronic items I now need to cart around with me. On top of that, I’ve got 2 deadlines: one next Friday (for a second draft script), the other late December.

But aside from worrying about deadlines, what’s been occupying my thoughts this week is the question of why some ideas endure, while others have limited longevity. What does an idea have to have, what kind of idea does it have to be, to sustain my long-term interest? Is it a matter of topicality? No, I don’t think so, although obviously the issue going off the boil, (or conversely heating up so much that it’s the subject of every second play) can contribute to waning enthusiasm. Is it about the length of time between concept and theatrical realisation? Well, that can be a factor, but it doesn’t explain why some ideas capture my imagination and refuse to let go, while others are what I call ‘firework ideas’.

I have this theory that it’s always the project ‘2 projects away’ that is the most attractive and exciting. Not the next one, getting closer by the day to the moment when you’re going to have to knuckle down and do the hard slog, and definitely not the current one. No, it’s the one after the next one which is so enticing. Still open and brimming with possibility …

Time to go and pack. I think I’m going to have to come back to this question of why some ideas persist. Perhaps when my brain isn’t cluttered up with things like travel insurance and trying to find those gloves I bought last time I was in a Northern Hemispher winter. In the meantime, here’s an interesting article On Myth by Marina Warner, which looks at the staying power and elasticity of myths. It also reminded me to reread one of my favourite books: The Book of Imaginary Beings by Jorge Luis Borges.