So, about a year ago, I had a stupid idea. I know it was a stupid idea, because a few times since then, as something or another has gone wrong, I’ve told myself, “This was a stupid idea.”  Sometimes, when I’ve majorly screwed up, it’ll be “This was a really stupid idea.”

This was a really f@#&%g stupid idea.
This was a really f@#&%g stupid idea.

But I can’t let it go.  See, when I was a kid, I wanted to be an inventor.  I had this notebook (actually, it was a series of them, over the years), where I would put all my crazy ideas.  And, I mean, some of them were just off-the-wall nuts. An air-conditioned jacket.  A machine that converts air into water.  An alarm clock that waits until your REM cycle is finished to wake you up.

Of course, the joke is that all of these things were eventually actually made by somebody else (see here, here, and here).  Now, the difference between me and these people is that these folks didn’t just scribble something down on a piece of paper – they actually built the damn things.  Turns out that matters.

So, as my father would say, “I told you that to tell you this.”

I’ve always been fascinated by the whole “Making” movement.  Ever since I learned about the Arduino, I knew that I wanted to create something with it.  I just didn’t know what.

She doesn't look like much, but she's got it where it counts.
She doesn’t look like much, but she’s got it where it counts.

Then I got my stupid idea.

When you come up with a new idea, there’s a reason somebody hasn’t made it already.  Maybe nobody thought it was worthwhile, maybe they couldn’t figure out how to make it work, or maybe no one could figure out how to make it economically.  Or hell, maybe you truly are the first person to ever think of it.  Whatever the reason, your idea is – in some way – irrational.  So, it makes sense that the first time you tell somebody about your brilliant new idea, their first reaction would be confusion; puzzlement; concerns about your mental health.

You want to build what now?
You want to build what now?

And here’s the thing.  Those people could be right.  Your idea might be useless.  Or impossible.  Or ridiculously expensive.  And even if it isn’t any of those things, there’s a good chance you’re going to fail.  Maybe not ultimately, but definitely along the way.  You’ll screw things up.  You’ll apply too much pressure with a pair of pliers and snap something in half.  Or maybe you’ll finish it and decide it’s nothing like what you had in mind.

And after each of these failures, you’ll think back on those funny looks your friends and family gave you and wonder whether those folks were actually right.

“My idea is nuts.”

“It’s impossible.”

“I’m tired of spending money on this damn thing.”

And maybe you listen to the voices for a while.  Maybe you stop working on it.  Maybe you put it all away, convinced that you’ve been wasting your time, energy, money, and sanity.  I know this, because I’ve done it myself over the last few months.  I hit a wall with my stupid idea, got irritated, and stopped.

For a while.

But here’s the thing – the idea doesn’t go away.  It sits in your mind, and you can’t help but go over changes…revisions…fixes. And eventually you want to try again.  As far as I can tell, the only way of getting a really persistent idea out of your head for good is to build it.

So, this is all a roundabout way of introducing myself.  I’m James Lackey, and I’m hoping to become a Maker. I’ve got no training in electronics, or carpentry, or design, or much else that I probably need to make the things that I’ll attempt.  My college degree was in Philosophy, and though I did have a few courses in computer programming, I am not an expert. What I do have, however, is the internet, a little bit of disposable income, and three daughters who I want to teach how to dream – and make – anything.  My plan for this series is to share my stupid ideas, describe my failures, and – hopefully – have a few interesting things to show at the end of it.

Next time: my stupid idea.