Stop Generating New Ideas
I’m great at thinking up ideas for new projects. Stories I could write. Blogs I could start. I have notebooks filled with them. Look in my closet and you’ll see stacks of file folders with all the first chapters and outlines I’ve started for novels over the years (but, um, never finished).
Here’s what happens. Before I get very far with any of them, inspiration often strikes for something else I could do instead. So the other unformed ideas get shoved aside while I pour my attention into the Johnny Come Lately.
I feel creative when I’m writing new things down. Inspiration is a kind of high we creative types live for. But focusing on new stuff all the time ultimately paralyzes us.
I get stuck trying to figure out which potential project I should give my attention to when there are so many waiting in the wings. Just as I’m about to choose something, it doesn’t take much for another shiny new object to distract me. “Hey! Look at that! Maybe that’s the one!”
Can you relate?
I was flipping through the book Manage Your Day-to-Day this morning and something that Jocelyn K. Glei wrote in the preface jumped out at me:
“For too long, the creative world has focused on idea generation at the expense of idea execution. As the legendary inventor Thomas Edison famously said, ‘Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.’ To make great ideas a reality, we must act, experiment, fail, adapt, and learn on a daily basis.”
It’s kind of a cop-out to keep skipping around from one thing to the next without actually finishing any of them. Have you ever noticed that it’s a lot less frightening to start something new than to invest your time and attention on a single project until it’s done?
So today I’m going to choose one–just one–of my project ideas and focus on it. If others try to distract me, I’m going to do my best to ignore them. Because true creativity is about taking one small idea and following where it leads, right to the very end, even when the road is long and dark and you have no idea where you’re going or if you’ll ever get there. Wish me luck!
What are some of the ideas you’ve had for projects over the years that you never fully developed? Is it time to execute one of them and see where it leads?