Today we (Brandon, the kids, and I) are in Albuquerque for the balloon festival. Today is one of the days where the shaped balloons are highlighted. We got up at 5:30 (but it sounds more impressive if I say we got up at 4:30, which is what it was New Mexico time) in order to eat breakfast and get out there in time to see the balloons go up at sunrise.
Row by row, the balloons billowed as they filled with hot air and slowly rose. The shape and colors of each balloon weren't fully discernible until they were completely full and ready to take off. What is that black and white one? Felix the Cat? No, Mickey Mouse. It turned out to be Pepe le Pew.
Then, amid cheers from the crowd, they would rise and float away, seemingly as effortlessly as soap bubbles (and there were vendors, coincidentally, selling soap bubble guns).
A couple of unflattering comparisons arose in my mind about writers, ego, and hot air, but I discarded them in favor of this:
An idea is like an empty hot air balloon. In fact, for me, it's like a balloon that someone else has given me, that I didn't work for at all. I have a lot of ideas, more ideas than I have time or energy. I don't know where they come from, and I don't take full credit for them.
The hard part isn't the idea (for me, but that may vary from person to person, I'm sure), it's making something of it. A hot air balloon isn't much to look at until a lot of energy has been expended to fill it up and flesh it out. Features become obvious that were previously hidden. Finally, the work is finished, waiting to be set free like the balloons bobbing, tethered to the ground.
Then a pilot and some other crew members are needed to make sure it gets up in the air. The final completed work, published, looks as effortless as a soap bubble, but in truth it took a lot of work and guidance by various individuals along the way, more than any casual observer could understand.
There was also something particularly appropriate about this metaphor since many of the balloons that we saw this morning were completely fantastic--a gargoyle, a goldfish, a steam locomotive, a witch, a haunted house—imaginations set loose in reality.