On liking the idea of a thing more than the thing itself

I like monkeys.

But not really.

(Sorry, monkeys.)

I thought I liked them a lot.

But an unfortunate incident involving an alarmingly amorous monkey in Thailand changed all that.

Turns out I like the monkey concept more than I like actual monkeys.

For example, I love the word. (Say it with me: monkey!) And I like the qualities I associate with monkeys: playful, cute, clever, funny.

My favourite business tool in the whole wide world is big on the monkeys. (Love you, MailChimp!) And goodness knows I love this baby monkey riding backwards on a pig.

Even so, the truth is that I’m in love with the idea more than the reality.

Exhibit B: Moleskines.

Oh, I love the notebooks – the smooth pages, the rounded corners, the clever pocket in the back, the way they feel in my hands. I even remember the very first time I saw a Moleskine, that’s how in love I was.

But I don’t write in them. I own three. They’re blank.

Because as much as I love ’em, when I want to map out an idea or scribble down a thought, I turn to my super-cheap generic sketchbook. The one that doesn’t care whether my thoughts are worthy of a Moleskine or not. The one with no Hemingways attached.

Maybe I could work on my stuff around messing up writing in Moleskines. And maybe I will. (Same goes for amorous monkeys.)

But still…

When I think back, there are plenty of times I’ve been in love with an idea of something but been unwilling to admit that it’s the idea I’m in love with.

And I’ve clung to the ideas of things because I didn’t want to experience the sense of loss that sometimes shows up with truth.


But the clinging takes up space. Not so much with the monkeys and the Moleskines, but other things, yes?

You know the stuff.

Speaking of you, my lovely…

Are you clinging to the idea of something, even though you’re not in love with the reality of the thing?

A goal? A relationship? A pair of shoes? A way of being or doing?

What kind of space might open up if you were to admit that the gap between the idea and the reality just isn’t worth crossing for you?

And what might you do with all that space?


Related goodness:

The lovely Marissa wrote about not running marathons. Bless her.


  1. Tessa Zeng

    You know, for an artist, I sure love the idea of art much more than the actual creation.

    Which was kind of why I clicked on this link in the first place.

    To clarify: I DO love art, with all my heart (yikes)…Just not, you know, crafting the whole darn thing myself (yay art school!). Space definitely opened up the second I got clear on this- it’s clarified the kind of work I really want to do in the world, as opposed to feeding off remnants of childhood fantasies of being a portrait artist.

    Awesome, reflection-provoking post!

  2. Michelle Russell

    Heh–can’t wait to hear the story of that amorous monkey! If you indeed write about it in your Notes, of course.

    There are many things I’m in love with the idea of without going much further than that. The biggest one for me right now is probably food-related. I love the idea of a healthy diet made of wholesome, natural, fresh and unprocessed foods, and I’d sure love to think of myself as that kind of a “clean” eater. But I’ve trained my palate (or society has, or both) too far in the direction of lots of carbs, crunchy, oily, salty, and highly processed…umm, Michael Pollan calls them “foodlike substances” (oy!)…to make any claims to healthy eating. And it’s hard not to judge myself for that as I begin to think about potentially contemplating the possibility of maybe starting to eat healthier.

    On the Moleskines–what if we went out and bought one, then did some kind of a Wreck This Journal project together, deliberately using our fancy, expensive, and Hemingway-worthy Moleskines?

  3. Donna Miller

    I love your example of the Moleskins… the exact same thing happens to me. Thank you for such a concise and thought-provoking post. It’s a serendipitous find for me.

    I have way too many things. It makes me nervous. I feel much better when I am living a minimalist lifestyle. I don’t know how I get off track and end up collecting so much stuff. But I’m in the process of selling most of it on auction sites. It takes some work and time, but that’s my punishment (and later reward if it sells) for collecting so many things. Next time I think I want a thing I’m going to put it through a test, based on what you have written… do I really like the thing, or the idea of the thing?

    Note to Michelle: I’m into healthy foods too, I have found the solution to the crispy, salty, oily addiction… Kale chips. You won’t believe how good they are until you try them. They are very healthy, kale is an awesomely nutritious vegetable. I don’t even feel like eating potato chips now. I create delicious, healthy recipes and post them on my website. I have a couple of kale chip recipes there. In fact, that reminds me, lots and lots of beautiful kale in the garden. After I finish lunch I will go and pick lots and make some kale chips.

  4. Rose

    Wow. This post came at the right time.
    I spent last night in my housemates room, strumming on her guitar. My family tried to get me to take both recorder and piano lessons when I was younger (and wasted a lot of money on the idea of me being musical). Last night, I thought maybe the guitar would work. Maybe I could actually find a second hand guitar and just have it around. Teach myself to play. Maybe get good.

    *bing* enter the concept of being a guitarist. enter the pattern of new ideas which taper out after a few weeks.

    But I enjoy using her guitar; as I did last year with my old housemates guitar. I’ve asked if I could borrow hers for a little while – see if i’m still interested in a month or two.

    I don’t know how I’ve read a post on getting rid of excess and commented purely on how I want to acquire; but I guess that’s just how I process 😛

    It was good to read this; to get that nudge of “don’t rush into it; are you sure this is for you”.



  5. Sally

    This may be the same way I feel about long term travel. I love the IDEA of traveling forever. I love the idea of all of my life fitting into one itty-bitty carry-on, the idea of being on the road with no home, the idea of being footloose and fancy-free.
    But, in reality, it stresses me out. I hate packing and repacking and not being able to buy pretty things. I hate not having a home or roots or friends to call when I want to go out for lunch. I am ever so happy when I get to stuff my luggage under a bed for a bit and settle down.
    But, despite knowing all this, I don’t think I will ever fall out of love with the idea of travel. As it is with you and monkeys…

  6. Carol

    Love this post -it’s SO me!!! I have too many interests for one lifetime…and I find I love the IDEA more than the IMPLEMENTATION of the idea! My favorite: getting married (we’ve been dating 13 yrs!) totally in love with: engagement ring, wedding, gifts, big cake, honeymoon someplace exotic! Marriage? Not so much!!! Thanks for a great post!

  7. Christiaan | Mind the Beginner

    ” the idea is better than the thing monkey” indeed!

    A delight to read, made me smile all the way through. Now I can’t get this idea out of my head to explore my daily life to see if there is anything there although the plan was great, it doesn’t deliver. Wait, that’s almost everything I own…

    …. yikes.

    Gr, Christiaan

    ps, love the theme! Nice, crips, minimal and playful. I’ll be back :)

  8. Rich Lafferty

    Yes to the idea. Yes to the moleskines. Little notebooks that shout “What you write in here is permanent.” I never really clicked on that until now though.

    I use hardcover lab notebooks at work, too, a habit from a place where lab notebooks were required and archived just in case there was something in them to defend a patent. I’m not patenting anything in my work notebook these days. Maybe the same problem happens there.

    But that idea! I have a sketching set, a gift from my wife, when I was all about learning to sketch — but it turns out I like the idea of sketching more than sketching.

    When I started playing the cello (after years of playing double bass, mind you, so I started off being able to play decently) I actually updated my bio on my website and Twitter to contain “cellist”. And in retrospect that probably colored my thoughts about playing. Long story short I ended up burning out a bit, took back the rental cello.

    I could go on. Thanks for pointing this out.

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  10. Ren

    Oh, the levels of creepy and wow. I mean, first the online tarot deck is freakily accurate, and now this.


    Okay. Coping. Or trying to. I need this, but somehow, I’m terrified of digging any further into it. Somehow, I’ve gotten so attached to those things in my head that the idea of getting rid of them is… beyond scary. Quickly approaching panic-worthy. That region.

    This will need exploring. And poking. And chai.

    *hugs and love*

  11. Flora

    Oh Lisa, I mirror both your examples. I too loved monkeys until a really darling one bit me in Turkey! And while it is not a moleskine I bought a lovely brown moleskiney-like book months ago which I only yesterday managed to force myself to use – but in an erratic way.

    I am really enjoying pondering all the things I like the idea of but which I don’t really fancy in reality. And applying it to possessions is a wonderful technique to stripping away unnecessary or tiring things.

    You are wonderful, thank you.

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