This week’s episode is an encore of a prior episode that keeps coming to mind. I’ve had this conversation with a few friends lately. They have an idea they’ve been thinking about. But they don’t really know how to get past the planning stages. Or they’re not sure if it’ll really take off. This episode is the nudge you need to get your idea out of your head and out into the world.
I started working with a creative mentor at the beginning of this year. Her name is Miranda Anderson and I am linking her info in the show notes. I would highly recommend working with her if you could use some creative direction and guidance. The best advice I’ve been able to utilize from this mentorship is to focus on getting all of the ideas out of my brain or even in jumbled up, half-thought out bullet points in my notes app on my phone and into more clearly defined categories and scheduling. Getting my thoughts better organized then leads to better time management, then that in turn moves into improved productivity and much less wheel spinning and frustration.
As you listen to this episode, I invite you to think about the ideas you’ve been contemplating. What would it take to get it out of your head and out into the world? It doesn’t have to be an idea that changes the world. It doesn’t have to be an idea that a completely new way of doing things. Maybe it’s improving or changing something small in your own life. Maybe it’s a new idea for your local community. Or maybe it really is for a larger audience. Whatever it is, it is doing very little, if any, good just idling in your head. Write it down. Tell someone else. Plan it out. Take the first step. Put your idea out there!
Have you ever had an idea that you were really excited about?
That you thought you could improve upon an existing process that wasn’t working too well?
Or had thoughts to contribute to conversation?
Or had a product you thought would be fun to share?
Odds are pretty good that you have had an idea that brought you some good feelings.
So what did you do with that idea?
Did you go for it and make it happen?
Did you acquire the resources you needed?
Did you learn a new skill?
Did you decide that it could wait? That you’d get around to it “one day”?
Did you rally others who may think similarly? Did you collect voices? Or form a group to hash out these ideas?
Did you take it to a leader who could affect change?
Or were you too worried about what others might think of you if you told them your idea?
Were you worried that too many other people were already doing your idea?
Did you think your time would be wasted? That nothing would change, so why bother?
Did you think that no one else would care?
All of those things can definitely happen. I don’t want to come across as disillusioned that if you manifest it or you think good thoughts that only good things will come your way. That’s a very optimistic perspective but that’s not reality.
But what would happen if you did decide to put your idea out into the world?
I have three books that go along with this perspective on ideas that I want to tell you about. I love reading. I don’t get around to it as much as I would like—there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get around to it all. I have a lengthy reading list at all times.
The first book is “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert. If you’ve listened to episode 8: So why not… find what works for you? (with Rachel Kiser Smith), you might remember that Rachel recommended this book and had taken notes from reading it. I had not heard of this book before our discussion but I’m so glad she suggested it. It’s one of those I want to revisit every so often, to think about the topics again or in a different way. The main focus is on what it can mean to have a creative life beyond fear. Make sure to go back and listen to Rachel’s episode to get her take on it, too.
If you’ve heard that name, Elizabeth Gilbert, before, you may recognize her name as the author of the book “Eat, Pray, Love”, which later became a major film starring Julia Roberts. I’ve never read the book or watched the movie, and even though I loved Big Magic, I’m still not excited to. She even discusses the book, her memoir, and subsequent film in Big Magic. She is very much aware that critics did not flock to it with rave reviews.
Although I would love to detail every point in the book (it’s that good—you really need to read it!), the focus for this discussion is on the thought that ideas are almost “entities” of themselves. That ideas can come to you. That ideas and inspiration are magical and they require a human to partner together for the idea to be made manifest, to become actual. Elizabeth Gilbert thinks that ideas are always out there, swirling around in the universe, trying to get humans’ attention. Most of the time humans are too self-absorbed or distracted and don’t really notice the ideas around them. Ideas may keep trying to get your attention for a while but will eventually move on once they realize they don’t have a chance with you.
But when you are willing to listen, to be open to new ideas, they will work their magic on you. They will present coincidences and you may see signs that keep pointing back to the idea, or distract you from other things that again bring you back to thinking about the idea.
And then she says, “…in a quiet moment, it will ask, ‘Do you want to work with me?’
At this point, you have two options for how to respond.”
The first is: no. Sometimes you say no out of laziness. Or sometimes from being insecure and thinking you can’t do it. That someone else could do it but definitely not you. And sometimes no is because it’s not the right time.
Gilbert says: “I have many times been approached by ideas that I know are not right for me, and I’ve politely said to them: ‘I’m honored by your visitation, but I’m not your girl. May I respectfully suggest that you call upon, say, Barbara Kingsolver?’ (I always try to use my most gracious manners when sending an idea away; you don’t want word getting around the universe that you’re difficult to work with.)”.
I thought that was so clever the way she described it—not wanting a rejected idea going back and telling the other ideas not to bother with a certain person because they would just be turned down.
She says that in general that most people are just walking around all their lives saying no to ideas.
Your second option is, of course: yes. And when you say “yes”, you enter into a contract with inspiration and there are different ways of executing this contract. One is through creative suffering, and this contract says: “I shall destroy myself and everyone around me in an effort to bring forth my inspiration, and my martyrdom shall be the badge of my creative legitimacy.” She says that this method works until it kills you and that there may be a better way.
She says: “A different way is to cooperate fully, humbly, and joyfully with inspiration.”
“You can believe that you are neither a slave to inspiration nor its master, but something far more interesting—its partner— and that the two of you are working together toward something intriguing and worthwhile. You can live a long life, making and doing really cool things the entire time. You might earn a living with your pursuits or you might not, but you can recognize that this is not really the point.”
I think that whole thought process is a little hippie-dippy and abstract but also, how creative and thought-provoking is that?? To think that ideas are out there, unseen, just swirling around us and waiting to be realized.
Elizabeth Gilbert goes on to recount an experience she had with an idea. She had started writing a novel about a very specific event that happened in Brazil in the Amazon jungle in the 60s. She developed a storyline and a heroine. She got as far as pitching it to her publishers and they bought it. Shortly after, however, Elizabeth dealt with some personal issues that prevented her from devoting time to the novel. Two years later, when she finally went back to it, she discovered that the idea had left, that she no longer felt that inspiration she once felt. She says: “The idea had grown tired of waiting, and it left me.”
The story of her book idea that fizzled out does not end there. A few years later, she had an author friend that wrote letters back and forth to her. In one letter, her friend, Ann, mentioned that she was writing a new novel about the Amazon jungle. They were both gobsmacked to find out that aside from the Elizabeth’s focusing on construction and Ann’s focusing on the pharmaceutical industry, it was essentially the same story of scandal and love in the Amazon jungle. Elizabeth had never told Ann about the story that she’d originally started years prior before it got away. They decided that the idea had been transmitted when they first met in person, maybe when the idea had decided that it would not come to fruition from Elizabeth.
Whatever meaning or truth you take away from this example, it highlights the thought that ideas don’t stick around forever. The passion you may feel for an idea, no matter how big or small, will not last. It will fade over time, especially if you do not devote time, attention, and effort into making it happen.
I really could go on and on about “Big Magic” but instead I will continue to recommend that you read it.
The next two books are actually children’s books. I have two young kids and if I don’t get around to reading my own desired genre regularly, we certainly read a picture book or two every day.
The next book is called “What Do You Do With an Idea?” written by Kobi Yamada and illustrated by Mae Besom. It’s part of a series of books that also includes “What Do You Do With a Problem?” and “What Do You Do With a Chance?” I think “What Do You Do With an Idea?” is worthy of any home library but you can easily find this book as a read aloud on Youtube. It’s worth seeing the illustrations as well as it goes through the story.
The book starts out with a child that has an idea figuratively come to them. It’s an egg-like creature with a crown. Besides the idea figure itself that is brightly colored, the rest of the book starts out sketchy and gray. At first the child doesn’t really know what to do with it because it looks fragile and weird. The child walks away from it and worries what others might think about their idea. Over time, the child realizes that they actually do like having the idea around. The idea grows and its color spreads to other surrounding areas.
One part I find especially thought provoking states: “I showed it to other people even though I was afraid of what they would say. I was afraid that if people saw it, they would think it was silly. And many of them did. They said it was no good. They said it was too weird. They said it was a waste of time and that it would never become anything.” The child almost decides to give up on the idea but decides that it is THEIR idea and they know it best and decided to keep giving it attention.
The world continues to brighten around the child and the idea as the idea grows and is finally part of the world, not being sheltered. It became a part of everything.
The last page says, “And then, I realized what you do with an idea… you change the world.”
Not all ideas change the world but I love this very literal way of thinking about ideas, for everyone, not just kids. How many times do we hide our ideas and keep them to ourselves because we’re worried about what other people might think of them? That other people might think our ideas are weird or WE’RE weird. That our ideas are no good.
No one knows your idea like you know your idea.
The third and final book about ideas I want to share is also a children’s book called “Miguel and the Grand Harmony” and is written by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Pixar artist Ana Ramirez. It is inspired by the Disney/Pixar film Coco. The illustrations in this book are some of my favorite of any book we own. It’s not the average big-eyed princess Disney characters. It has texture and vibrant colors and details and scenery. Coco is my favorite Disney movie and when I bought the book for my kids, I was expecting it to be a retelling of the film, like a condensed “Little Golden Book” version. It is not that.
This story is told from the perspective of the idea or inspiration. This idea is to inspire the creation of music. The idea finds a boy whom, from the movie’s storyline, we know is Miguel. The idea tries to whisper its name into his ear but there are always other distractions. But, still, the idea persists. The idea pulls in a stray dog, Dante, as well as other musicians to help Miguel find his passion of creating music. Once Miguel successfully strums his first chord on his guitar, his idea is released out into the world as part of a grand harmony. The end of the book states: “One day these sounds may grow into songs and color the hearts of others. But for now he’s just a boy in an attic with a guitar. And the air he breathes is alive.”
And just like our ideas, they start first with a sound. Then the sounds build into a song. Then the songs become part of a grand harmony. And sometimes they do affect countless others. And sometimes they’re not that serious and the experience is just for us.
I will have links to all of these titles in the show notes. Especially as the holiday season rolls around, these would all make excellent gifts for both children and adults.
So what do you think about framing ideas this way? Have you ever thought about ideas being an entity waiting to find a human to partner with? Maybe you’ve thought about it in different terms like divine intervention or fate or kismet or serendipity.
And what would happen if you were brave enough to put your idea out into the world? Once you fed it and gave it attention, when would you be ready to release it outside of yourself?
I really think that framing ideas and inspiration along this way of thinking will bring some creativity and some magic into the process. Some ideas are big and grand and others are for the individual.
Even if it’s in a traditional corporate setting. If there’s an existing process that you can see needs improvement, why not take your idea to someone who can make the change? Good leaders listen to those they lead. And if it doesn’t end up happening after all, maybe you can work together in the future on other improvements or process changes.
And if you have a new creative idea, how long do you need to keep it under wraps before you launch it out into the world? How shiny and polished and refined does it need to be before you’re ready to share it with others?
And these three books are together another good example. They all feature a thought around ideas being a magical entity waiting to find a human and to be nurtured and given attention. But each author put their own spin on it and told it in their own way from a different perspective and for a different audience.
Not everything will be original. Not everything will be brand new and innovative. Completely original thoughts are few and far between. It is very likely that someone else is already doing the thing you want to do. But no one else will do it exactly like you.
I invite you to consider that idea you’ve had. Maybe it’s been trying to get your attention. Or an idea that tries to get your attention in the future. Are you open to receiving a new idea to work with? Or are you constantly walking around saying no no no no no to new ideas? Whatever the case may be, consider your ideas and what it will take for you to release them. What’s holding you back? Is it not the right time? Are you worried about others saying it’s not a good idea? What will it take to put them out into the world?
I appreciate you supporting me by listening to this podcast. And I’m rooting for you, too. I would love if you haven’t already to take just a minute to leave a rating and a review and make sure to subscribe or follow so you don’t miss new episodes. Make sure to follow along over on Instagram as well @sowhynot.podcast.
As always, I hope you can use these ideas as tipping off points to channel the ambition, curiosity, and desire to create the life you want to live. Thanks so much for listening. Our time is so important and I am so appreciative that you spent some of it with me.