Ever had an idea you couldn’t stop thinking about? I’ve had many; this happens to be one of them.
A few days ago, I was scrolling through my long list of incomplete, unpublished drafts. That’s when my eyes rested on an idea I had completely forgotten about: The creative process one goes through while writing an article.
There was a time when the idea seemed too generic. But this time, it struck a chord. It was one of those moments where your subconscious stores information and secretly processes it. Days, months, or even years later, it evolves into something else and goes BOOM.
I live for these Aha! moments.
Now, getting back to the idea. I initially thought about listing out the typical five-fold creative process (preparation, incubation, illumination, evaluation, and verification) that I learned in business school. But what fun would that be?
When the Eureka effect finally kicked in, I decided to ditch the generic approach and roll with my own creative flow. I noted down every little development that broke right through the seeds I had sown, only to grow into a massive tree. A tree that branched out into an intricate process. A process through which all of us walk through when we create something:
Stage 1: The liberating feeling of getting a great ideaCreated by the author.
The Ancient Greeks believed that all great thoughts and ideas came from one of the nine muses. Though we don’t believe in muses anymore, nothing makes us feel more empowered and motivated than original ideas. A sudden bout of inspiration runs through us when we realize that maybe, just maybe, we could change the world.
All it takes is the falling of an apple to change Physics, as we know it. (Newton)
All it takes is the overflowing of a bathtub to understand the very essence of fluid mechanical energy. (Archimedes)
Unfortunately, this feeling of liberation is fleeting. The deeper you think about it, the more it loses its value. So instead of getting overwhelmed by it, here’s what you should do:
Explain it on paper in the simplest way: There’s a difference between knowing your idea and actually understanding it. When it first comes to you, you just have a faint understanding of it in the back of your head. But when you consciously attempt to write it down and explain it to yourself, it becomes clearer.Deliberately procrastinate: Great ideas take time to evolve. So instead of forcefully squeezing the productive juices out of yourself, embrace procrastination. Sit on your idea, sleep on it, take a shower, and then forget about it for a while. You’ll come back stronger, with a more lucid perception of it.Stage 2: Evolution of an ideaCreated by the author.
After pondering over the initial developments of your idea, you find yourself in a rut. Little do you realize that it’s growing like a weed in your subconscious.
Bit by bit, your mind destroys its old pathways to the idea and creates new ones. As a result, newer possibilities come into the picture. When you finally sit down to write about it again, you realize that your idea isn’t the same anymore — it has evolved.
A mundane thought is now finally turning into a detailed map. A map that could potentially lead you to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. But this is no time to rush through the process. Instead, you further refine it by doing this:
Share your idea: Take your idea for a walk when you reach a creative threshold. When you share it with others, not only do you get viable feedback but you also reduce the risk of failure. In isolation, your idea is limited to your perception. But when it’s out there, the valuable insights of others allow it to evolve even further.Learn to let go: As you move forward, your idea becomes less and less recognizable. When this happens, don’t try to protect your original idea. Just let it go. Take Amazon, for instance. The E-commerce giant only sold books in its initial years and look where it is now.Stage 3: When your inner demons set inCreated by the author.
From walking, you start running towards your idea. It has evolved so much that it’s almost perfect now. But just when you start believing that you’ve reached the finish line, you fall to the ground. You fall hard.
You have all the resources and time to reach the finish line. But inside, you start fighting a whole new battle. Self-doubt and insecurities come creeping in, slide under your rug, and refuse to leave you alone. All of this makes you question your own idea.
Will it be worth it?
How many views will I get from this idea?
Am I good enough?
Before you give up, here’s what you should do when your inner critic starts blabbering:
Dance with your demons: Don’t sit on the sidelines. Instead, face your demons, allow them to mold you, and discover your place in their mess. Remind yourself that there’s freedom on the other side of your fears. Whether or not your idea will do well does not even matter. What matters are the lessons you get out of it. You’ll learn nothing if you give up midway.Detach yourself from your inner critic: See your problems from a third-person perspective. Instead of asking, “Why am I feeling worthless?” ask, “Why Does *Your Name* feel worthless?” Detaching yourself from your inner critic allows you to empathize with yourself. In turn, you accept your demons and roll with them.Screw perfection: Avoiding the urge to seek perfection may not wholly silence your demons, but it can calm them down. So one must remember that the road to perfection is paved by several imperfect endeavors.Stage 4: You’re not running anymore, you’re flyingCreated by the author.
When you merge with your fears, you become unstoppable. You charge through your creative process with the finish line now in direct sight.
But again, your work is far from over. In fact, all this while you were just preparing yourself for the final sprint. The 1% inspiration that you acquired from the entire process will now help you push through the 99% perspiration that lies ahead.
Here’s how you work your face off, survive late nights, and give everything you’ve got without losing momentum:
Eat the frog first: It’s easy to get carried away by your momentum. But this isn’t the time to dump your ideas on your target audience. It’s time to get involved in the hardest introspection and detailed work to understand your idea’s long-term implications.Don’t compete or compare: Being first in the market can certainly give you a competitive edge, but that should never be the goal. Address the bigger issues at the beginning itself and the rest will fall into place on its own.Forget the outcome: During execution, forget about the outcome for a while. Execution is always better than excessive strategizing and not taking action at all. However, once your idea is out there, start evaluating the feedback you're receiving.Evaluate the results: An idea is always a work in progress. Even after being sent out to the real world, it rehashes and remolds itself from the voice of your audience. The more you adapt to criticism the more you immortalize your idea.Final Thoughts
You might have noticed how this article seems abstract in the beginning. The more it progresses, the more concrete it becomes with its message. That’s precisely how our ideas grow. You don’t have to be Da Vinci to come out with epic ideas. All you have to do is stick to your own simple ideas and execute them.
Find meaning in every idea that hits you. When you do that, you transcend your need to gain followers, comments, and claps. And instead, you focus on giving to the world, not taking from it.
Every idea has the potential to be great. No idea deserves to be left undone.
Why Every Unfinished Draft Deserves to Be Completed: A Guide to Idea Execution was originally published in The Writing Cooperative on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
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