At any given time, I’ve got a dozen “projects” on my plate. These might be book ideas I’m noodling or a new class I’m developing or a partnership I’m looking to nurture.
Dreaming and scheming is one of my favorite things to do…imagining what’s possible, jotting down thoughts in a notebook, getting excited about just how far an idea can go.
I’m grateful that I’m an idea person, but if you’re one too, you know that it comes with its own set of challenges.
There’s the fact that sometimes idea people aren’t great at implementing and following through, so there’s a constant sense of missed opportunities and non-accomplishment.
There’s the whole problem of not knowing which idea to pursue — diving into all of them at once isn’t an option. Indecision can lead to paralysis which results in more frustration over missed opportunities.
There’s the fact that sometimes seemingly perfect opportunities present themselves, opportunities that could potentially actualize an idea, but the desire to seize them just isn’t there.
I know I’m not the only one who faces these challenges — many of my clients are creatives who are so flooded with ideas that they feel overwhelmed, self-defeatist, and stuck. Which is exactly the wrong environment for creativity to blossom.
So how can idea people embrace their process so they can ultimately create what it is they want to create?
1. Remember that while ideas are meant to be given a voice and nurtured, they don’t all have to be actualized. Shift the paradigm that says an idea without a result is a failure. Ideas are just seeds for more ideas.
2. Consider that just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. No matter how ideal an opportunity on paper, if the thought of following through doesn’t excite you, chances are it’s not right for you.
3. Come up with a process to download your ideas. I put all of my ideas on post-its stuck to my office wall, where they live until I decide to take action (or not) on a project. Getting ideas out of my head and knowing they “live” somewhere gets rid of the stress of not progressing on them. When, and if, the time is right, I’ll move forward.
4. Redefine what success looks like to you. Yes…completing a creative project might be a worthy goal, but finishing for the sake of finishing might not be. Tune out the noise of external validation and consider what success would look like for you and you alone.
5. Go where the energy is. When you have a strong pull to an idea, that’s a sign to dig in. At the same time…
6. Be patient. Sometimes the energy isn’t pulling in any one direction and you might find yourself in the land of percolation. Fear not…this is a good place to be. Percolate and continue to find new ways to get inspired and trust that the energy shift will occur. When it does, you’ll be ready to take action to move forward.
This is such a timely post for me. I love how you break this down…so helpful. I’m currently at a week-long creative writing workshop, which I thought would narrow and clarify my goals. Uh, just the opposite. Now I have MORE ideas and inspiration, and have been similarly overwhelmed. My approach thus far has been to wake up really early, go immediately to my computer, and while i’m still half-asleep, start with the project that feels most exciting and appealing at 5:30 in the morning.
I love that approach…if you’ve ever read The Artist’s Way and done morning pages, it’s similar in that you are doing a “brain dump” first thing… I do the same thing as you when I get back from a run, as usually the ideas come at me like gangbusters during the run and then I need to immediately sit at my computer and get to work. All ideas inspire more ideas…it’s just part of the creative way!
Thank you for this. The most useful for me was (3)to put the ideas somewhere and know where they live, outside of myself. In that computer file they hide and I keep making up more projects.
Pam, the Post-It download changed everything for me. I used to keep those ideas in notebooks, but then the notebooks would get full, get shelved, and the ideas long gone. With the Post-Its, they’re visible but not taking up brain space. Let me know how it works for you!
I’m also an idea person and have often felt overwhelmed. Recently, I’ve shifted my thinking to, Yes I can do it all– I just can do it all at once. Now I utilize tip 5 and go where there is the most energy while trusting that the other ideas/projects will have their time too (and that I will recognize when that time is).
But I also want to advocate for what you say about Percolation. In my last writing book, Beyond the Words I devoted a third of the book to this concept. Percolation is often given short shrift, like it doesn’t count as writing time or its the poor relative because one isn’t generating words. So to me Percolation is the Yin to the Yang of morning pages and other ways to make, generate or dump thoughts into words.