But first, let’s address this harsh truth: Your idea is probably not as good as you think.
This is not an insult to your intelligence. It is an observation of the creatives’ mindset.
We adore our ideas. We care for them. We dwell on them. We obsess over them. We know this one idea will change our life forever.
The longer you ruminate on your idea, the more ignorant you become to your naiveté. An idea in the real world looks infinitely less sexy than it does in your perfect brain.
My friend once told me of the novel he wanted to write:
“I don’t want to corrupt the purity of this story by rushing it out.”
Sounds reasonable, right? Except he told me that five years ago. He still has not written Chapter One.
I hate when Internet people say “just start!” We both know it isn’t that simple.
Over the last two years, I’ve published over 500 posts on various platforms. Some of them are terrible. Some of them are great.
All of them started as ideas at one point.
Here are some strategies which continue to help me:
A) Ruin everything immediately
The human ego seems to believe whatever comes out of our mind should be instantly perfect.
Artists, in particular, have this problem — we are trying to sort through vague ideas. There is no blueprint, no map. You have a half-finished cup of coffee and a whim.
I love what Ira Glass says:
“Your taste is why your work disappoints you.”
It takes a while to get to the point where you will be even a little satisfied with your work. Even then, there are iterations — you will spend untold hours doing and re-doing and idea, wanting it to be “just right.”
P.S. — It will never be “just right”
B) Dead to me
People sometimes say:
“I love what you wrote about self-confidence in that post!”
I often say:
“Thanks … what did I say?”
Idea people have a strange paradox. When an idea is new, it’s all we think about. After the idea reaches reality, it is dead to us.
Pour your heart and soul and blood and guts into your idea.
Then, let it die and move on.
(See also — Die Every Day)
Your ideas are worth implementing.
I’m telling you that just in case nobody else does.
I’m telling you that because current culture often makes us feel insignificant.
I’m telling you that so you can write it down, stick it on your mirror, and read it when you don’t feel like moving forward.
I’m telling you that because it’s true.
D) The breakdown
Every November, around half a million people queue up for what can only be described as an artistic trial by fire.
NaNoWriMo — National Novel Writing Month — is a program in which you write a complete novel in 30 days.
Here’s why it works:
The very goal “I want to write a novel” is arbitrary. Novels come in all shapes and sizes — how long should yours be? What genre should it be? How much time do you have to spend working on it?
The program has grown exponentially largely because of a clear goal and clear subgoals.
The Goal: 50,000 words — a concrete, measurable finish line.
The Subgoals: 1,667 words per day — if you hit this mark every day, you’re ahead. If you miss it, you’re behind.
When you break your idea down so far the first step is too easy, you win.
(Also, a while back Jon Westenberg posted this picture. I found it very helpful.)
E) The 30 x 30 x 30 rule
When I have a big brand new idea, the first thing I do is work on it for 30 seconds. I do this as soon as possible after I have an idea I think is really good. When I hesitate, the naive idealist takes over.
The next day, I do it for 30 more seconds. A whole minute on a new idea!
If I am still interested in an idea after 30 seconds, I put it through the 30-day test. If you can do something for 30 days in a row, it’s potentially a good fit for you. Many people build their own cages with ideas which they don’t have the interest in carrying out.
[IMPORTANT: It’s fine to realize an idea isn’t right for you, so long as you release any guilt or shame related to quitting.]
When we’ve passed the 30-day test, I immediately ask:
Is this something I could do for 30 years?
The last part of the 30 x 30 x 30 rule is scary. I am bored after 6 months. How am I supposed to do something for 30 years??
But if you plan on a 30-year window, imagine how small the little bumps along the way are. Imagine how patient you would be with your new idea.
Imagine if you committed to 30 years, but achieved your desired results in just 5.
That happens more often than you’d think.
See also — Dear Young People Looking for a Career – Do This)
F) Find friends
F is for friends.
JRR Tolkien — Lord of the Rings author — was obviously a phenomenal talent and had an astonishing imagination. But it’s likely none of his work would have ever been seen were it not for a close friend: C.S. Lewis.
Tolkien and Lewis went back and forth reading each other’s work, analyzing and criticizing the dialog, studying the nuance of their craft.
Now, even though they are both dead, their work lives on.
G) Use the magic word
The magic word is “no.”
I hate no. I am very bad at saying it. Hopefully, you are stronger than me.
Instead, I say this:
“I love you, but I can’t give you my focus right now.”
It is not uncommon for people who have big ideas to isolate themselves from the rest of the world. John Sylvan — creator of the Keurig — spent most his time alone in a room testing cup after cup of coffee.
(He also got caffeine poisoning during this time. Obsession can be costly).
Remember Letter C. If you believe your idea is worth executing, you will have the discipline to prioritize it.
H) DJ Khaled
A surprising amount of my analogies include Khaled Mohammed Khaled. Sorry about that. Maybe one day I will find another example of a person who blew up, vanished, resurrected, and became a multi-millionaire through sheer will.
Listen to the word of the guru:
In every song, in every snap, in every post:
Many people do not execute on their ideas for fear it will be the only good idea they have.
Remember this: The human mind is infinite — ever seeking and ever connecting. You won’t fall short. There’s always more where that came from.
This idea you have must make its way to reality.
It’s time to make room for another one.
— — —
Learn even more about making your ideas a reality …
In my new book — The Unstoppable Creative.
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This article first appeared on Medium.