Ideas are intangible, delicate and effervescent. They can come to us with a seemingly sudden flash of inspiration, or they can hover on the edge of our awareness, teasingly out of reach.
“The idea hovered and shimmered delicately, like a soap bubble, and she dared not even look at it directly in case it burst. But she was familiar with the way of ideas, and she let it shimmer, looking away, thinking about something else.” – Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass
Understanding that ideas can come to us in many ways, often unformed, and sometimes difficult to fully understand, here are a few tips I’ve learned to help me hold onto those especially effervescent ideas.
#1. Write everything down:
For me, this actually means EVERYTHING. I’ve found in the past that I have been quick to judge, and dismiss ideas, if they come to me in pieces, or perhaps unattached to anything I’m currently working on. This has been a mistake, because these pieces are often connections to other ideas, or the first tiny spark of a new project. Now, anytime something interesting or unique comes to mind, I write it down, and I have a delightful little cache of random idea bubbles. I often use them now as prompts in my writing, if I find myself stuck somewhere.
#2. Refrain from judgement:
This leads me beautifully into my second point, which is that those snap judgements we tend to make (about EVERYTHING), can be especially damaging to idea creation. In the same way that I don’t edit while I write, I have learned not to make judgements about my initial ideas. If I cast any kind of aspersions on my delicate idea bubble, it is quite likely to *pop*, and disappear forever. This makes it harder to capture, and cultivate the next idea bubble that comes along. Judging ideas can be a difficult habit to break, which is why I love the Philip Pullman quote above. Just let the idea sit, and perhaps stew for a bit at the edge of your mind, and perhaps it will grow brighter, and stronger and mean something more to you.
#3. Inspect from all angles:
The reason that some ideas seem odd to us initially, can often be because of the perspective from which we’re viewing the idea. If at first, your initial idea, or small piece of idea, seems strange, or doesn’t seem to fit anywhere, try holding the idea away from you, turning it upside down, inside out, or in a completely different place than the way in which you originally conceived it. The ability to observe from a different perspective is an essential writer skill, and it will help you to fully value an idea, even if at first glance it seems peculiar.
Do you think of your ideas as bubbles? How do you hold onto those fleeting little bubbles, and turn them into something delicious? Tell me in the comments!
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