The Idea Dragon

I was meant for the Internet age.

I was sorting through the books cluttering the table next to my reading chair one recent morning and noted their diversity: The Body Is Not an Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor,  Beth Plutchak’s new collection, a work on philosophy and the body by Prof. Mark Johnson. Poetry. A couple of novels. A memoir. Rebecca Solnit on wandering.

And then there are the library books — a couple of recent books on feminism plus The Half Has Never Been Told. That, of course, does not include all the novels I recently downloaded onto my phone through two recent Storybundles nor the pile of novels across the room next to Jim’s reading spot — books I’m hoping to get to soon — not to mention the book on Georgia O’Keeffe I’m staring at right now.

Now you might not see the connection between all these books and the Internet, except maybe for the downloaded ones. However, one of the ways I found these books was through reading reviews and social media that mentioned them. Not the only way, of course: a lot of the fiction in this house comes from going to WisCon and FogCon, where it is easy to find work from small and interesting publishers.

But the diversity of the subject matter is what makes these books a marker — perhaps the tip of the iceberg — for why I’m meant for the Internet age. I am greedy for ideas.

All kinds of ideas. My tastes are very catholic. Pop culture. History. Physics. Classical literature. Music I’ve never even listened to. Art from cave paintings to the drawing some kid’s parents put on their fridge.

There’s no telling where I’m going to find an idea that speaks to me. There’s no telling when I’m going to stumble across a fact or a concept and need to know more about it.

In my pre-internet youth, this meant spending time in libraries looking for I wasn’t sure what, reading magazines and newspapers, and buying books at random because the title or the author or something caught my eye. I still do those last two, but these days I use the library more efficiently, because I search the online catalogue. And I read the newspapers and magazines online for the most part, so I can jump among them for different ideas.

When I was a kid and wanted to know more about something, the only option was the World Book Encyclopedia, which was never even close to as up-to-date as Wikipedia and was always simplistic. Today, I can get recent information from Wikipedia that provides a better starting point than any print encyclopedia ever did and then do a simple search that takes me to more information.

Perhaps the most wonderful thing about the web is that I’m always finding ideas I didn’t even know I was looking for. One of my friends mentions something on social media (I have a lot of smart friends) and I go down that rabbit hole. Or I check a blog I like and find something else worth knowing about.

For someone greedy for ideas, the Internet is paradise.

No, I have no idea how to monetize my idea obsession. I have a lot of books on economics around here, too, but none of them are on how to turn an obsession into an income stream. I am not good at that, perhaps because the only thing that interests me personally about money is having enough in the bank today to pay my bills.

Here’s the best thing about my greed for ideas: I can collect all the ones I want and they will still be there for everyone else. It’s like a dragon’s hoard, except that my having those things doesn’t keep you from having them.

What I do with those ideas is mine — the way I take them and put them together with other ideas and find a connection that no one else sees — but you’ve got the same materials, the same gold, that I do. And what you do with them will be different, which is also wonderful.

This is my work: Finding ideas and doing something with them. The Internet makes is so much easier.

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The Idea Dragon — 2 Comments

  1. I love the golden dragon that is the information highway.

    I also remember sitting in the corner in the living room, trying not to brain myself with the low hanging lamp by the piano, reading the Collier’s Encyclopedia and its updates for information. (The recent comment that the 1956 encyclopedias were better on a lot of factual info than many modern textbooks is a disturbing thing. More reason than ever to keep the Internet un-throttled, and people curious and not staying only in their own back yards, so to speak.)

    • The idea that textbooks are less reliable than 50s encyclopedias is truly depressing. Though not surprising, if one has watched the Texas statewide textbook adoption process.