As I mentioned in a previous post, inventing is chaotic and confusing compared to other careers.
Inventing is a lonely endeavor and one your friends and colleagues will never understand no matter how you try to explain it.
Lonely Days and Lonely Nights
Many inventors come from engineering or technical careers where where they interact continually with colleagues through meetings, phone calls and water cooler conversations. Inventors also work with others, including patent attorneys, software developers, and professionals, but inventors spend the bulk of their time working alone.
Creating new innovative ideas and developing them into products takes time, a lot of time. Studying the market, devising ideas, creating and refining prototypes and testing them are all time consuming solitary endeavors. The process is, at best, a zig zag with lots of starts and stops and rework. The innovative process is lonely, it cannot really be scheduled and it defies efforts to quantify or easily understand it.
They'll Never Understand
Every inventor sooner or later encounters the look.
A co-worker may ask if you have a patent; answer is not yet. You further explain that a patent may cost $5,000 or more – for which there is no guarantee a patent will be issued. You will likely invest more capital into manufacturing and marketing and it could take years to get it onto retail store shelves. Inventing is high-risk and; in the end, absolutely nothing is guaranteed.
The co-worker replies politely, “oh.”
They pause for a moment, as if they are considering another question, but instead you get the look.
You can easily interpret the look. It means they think you are crazy.
Your friends, colleagues, and co-workers live in a world where clear, specific, measurable work efforts result in a predictable, guaranteed reward: a paycheck every two weeks. Inventors inhabit a strange world where vague, impossible to measure, continually changing efforts result in an unpredictable, never-guaranteed reward: royalties paid for licensing the product.
They wonder how you can work so hard and be paid so little for so long.
They will never understand.
But, if the inventor has a strong product that he or she believes in enough to give it their all: to work day and night with endless persistence, the day may finally come.
For me, I tried to explain that after years of seemingly fruitless effort, a manufacturer has licensed my product. They have put it into the marketplace and sales are fantastic. My reward, a small royalty on each product sold, results in a lucrative royalty check mailed to me each quarter. I tell them that I do not have to do anything to collect the money; as long as the product sells well, I'll be paid each quarter.
I can do nothing and be paid – a lot of money. They pause and there is the look again.
They wonder how I can work so little and be paid so much for so long.
Then, I give them a look of my own: it is more of a smile.
Sometimes confusion is a good thing.