Every once in a while I come across a post such as this from the blog of Tim Ferriss:
Engineering a “Muse” – Volume 4: Case Studies of Successful Cash-Flow Businesses. Then I get inspired (again) and want to jump into “engineering my muse.” You see, I do this a lot, with many aspects of my life. I get an idea about something, maybe do a little research into it, then forget about it for a while until something comes along and sparks my interest again, and I repeat the cycle all over.
To be inspired is a beautiful thing. To never act on that inspiration (and see it through from time-to-time) is a waste of creative bliss.
My first idea was to create a Kindle case. This must have come up over a year ago now, around the time I read The 4-Hour Workweek
(which I can’t recommend enough, by the way; I’m going to do a second read-through soon). I talked it over with some friends, refined the idea, and made some sketches on paper. I sat down a few times to create a concept in various programs – Adobe Illustrator, AutoCAD, Blender, Google SketchUp – but was always thwarted by my lack of a proficient knowledge of those applications. I thought about teaming up with someone who’s proficient with those skills, but I never went anywhere with it.
Okay, so moving beyond a proper schematic (gosh, I love that word) for now, how about looking at some manufacturers to see what that’d entail. Ho-boy! talk about a confusing jungle of things I’m completely clueless about. Some simple Google searches for manufacturers for terms like “cases” or “Kindle/iPad cases” later, and I’m no closer to having a clue what I’m doing. So, naturally, I continue with my current trend and stop working on it.
Now I have a few failed attempts to get this project off the ground. Great! Fast-forward to about six months ago when I had sushi with my friend and colleague Timmothy Merath. He tells me this is the year he’ll accomplish things. He’s going to make 2011 his year, and he encourages me to make my Kindle case a reality. He said he’d give me a month to get my idea together and put it up on Kickstarter. The idea both excited and petrified me. I guess the petrification won over, because I never got my act together.
Products that are conceptually simple but incredibly practical – to the point where you ask yourself, “Why hasn’t this been done before?” – make for an ideal muse. The biggest obstacle to making it happen is most-often, You. There are virtually countless cases out there, ranging in size from smartphones to tablets and more, and with varying degrees of functionality: wallets, extra keyboards, simple protection, stands, lights, and whathaveyou (another fun word).
So where can I go from here? Well, I can’t really do any less than I am now with regards to the project. With Amazon having just announced three new Kindles – one of them a tablet! – perhaps this would be the best time to rally behind my idea and push it forward. For real this time. The idea’s been floating around just shy of my full-attention for a while now.
So what’s stopping me?
The idea of making a physical product is quite intimidating. But does it have to be? With so many awful products being made, it can’t be that hard! Surely the process is doable, else we wouldn’t see products like these. Clearly there are plenty of successful companies making great products people want. Square36 did it with their yoga mat. Vincent Ko did it with his ingenious and very practical iFlip Wallet. Amir Khella made Keynotopia, not excuses.
These are all things I could do, but first I need to get over that mental block. I need to stop focusing on the hows and the what-ifs (although they should definitely be given consideration, just not so much that you never get around to making things happen) and simply do.