Purveyor. Not of goods, but of good ideas

Saturday, February 18, 2006


What do you do when you have done a good bit of work on a creation—a book, a script, an invention, it doesn't really matter what—and then you learn that someone else sort of got there first?

Do you give up? Throw in the towel? Re-jigger your concept? Move ahead as if nothing happened?

That's what I'm dealing with today. Yesterday, I saw a new book sitting pretty at Rizzoli with a subject AND title that were annoyingly familiar to me—practically identical to my own. I've been working on this book for several years and now I need to make a choice: Keep going with it or move on.

Damn me for delaying.

Okay, calm down. The packaging and the general approach already tell me that while the two books are similar, there are also a few key differences. My book, for example, would be smaller, shorter, less theoretical, more personal, less journalistic, more beautiful, and less expensive.

Is the world big enough for the both of us?

More important: Am I prepared to take on the inevitable carping and disdain from those who will assume my book is a mere copycat, the offspring of a lesser, plagairistic mind?

I tell myself that what I've lost since yesterday is not any true originality or value. The material I've already written is as valuable and valid today as it was yesterday. What I've lost is some unique claim to it and the perception of origination.

Is the perception of others—especially critics—the primary determinant of value? Is "what people might say" something to pay much mind to at all?


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