Ideas are funny little things. Like slippery silverfish, they dart into our minds and swim around for a while. Often, they’re too quick and too fleeting for us to catch. Occasionally, they hang out for a bit, giving us a chance to cast our lines and maybe reel one in.
As a writer, I deal with ideas. I have an entire hatchery in my head, churning and slithering with the bodies of these ideas. Not all of them want to be caught. Some do, but they can just as easily slip through my net moments or hours after I’ve caught them. And some will twist and change into something completely different right before my eyes.
I’ve always heard that writers should keep a notebook handy for those times when an idea comes close enough to the surface that you can snatch it out and capture it in ink on the page. I think this is a great idea, not just for writers, but for everyone. How many wonderful ideas have been lost to the ether simply because the darty little things swam away before their owners could catch them? Could we have flying cars, a cure for cancer, or even world peace if some of these flighty little fishies had been captured and explored? Perhaps we’ll never know.
Ideas are afraid of busyness. They won’t come near stress, and they’ve been known to hide from doubt. But they love boredom — it feeds them and makes them grow big and strong. Some of my biggest and best ideas were hatched on days when I had nothing to do and nowhere to be. But those days seem to be so few and far between now.
I look at my children, who see boredom as something horrible, something to be avoided at all costs. And it’s certainly easy enough to avoid boredom nowadays. The world is filled with distractions and roadblocks to ideation. Maybe if we slowed down a little, turned off a little, unplugged a little, then we might see an explosion of ideas hatching furiously across the minds of the world. Maybe.
What good are these ideas? How do we know if they’ll grow into big, strong, useful things? We don’t. Like everything else in life, ideas are a gamble, something we can’t be sure of. But there is one certainty — if we don’t do something with the ideas, they’ll never amount to anything other than a quick flash of light in our darkened minds.
How can we make the most of these ideas? Write them down. Talk about them. Share them, nurture them, then act upon them. Some ideas are meant to be shared, like how to bring about world peace or how to solve our energy problems. Other ideas, they’re a little more apprehensive and shy, and they need to be nurtured in solitude until you’ve crafted them into something that’s fully ready to be shared with the world. These little ideas become our novels, our songs, our stories. Give them love, attention, and time, and they might grow into something truly amazing.
Sometime today, why don’t you sit very still for a moment and listen to the little silverfish swimming in your head? Try to slow the flow of your thoughts so these budding ideas can swim to the surface, then pluck one out and give it the attention it deserves. Who knows, it might reward you by growing into something big and beautiful and full of goodness. Or, it might swim away, waiting for the day when it’s ready to breach the surface of your thoughts once again and find its way to fulfillment.