You are racking your brain for a great idea. You are racking your brain for the idea.
But your brain is bare. You’ve got nothing. Absolutely nothing. Or maybe you do have something. Maybe you have a lot of little somethings, but they’re silly or stupid or not worth writing down.
Write them down anyway.
It’s rare that we’ll come up with fully formed ideas right away. Instead more often than not our ideas start out as preposterous or ridiculous or really, really bad. But after tweaking and twisting and turning them upside down and downside up, some ideas start to take shape. They start to come alive. They start to seem fascinating or feasible or fun or maybe even vital.
The key is to give ourselves the space and the permission to welcome them in, without any judgment or censorship from us—even if others think they’re silly, too. And if others do think your ideas are dumb, you’re in amazing company.
In the book The Power of Starting Something Stupid: How to Crush Fear, Make Dreams Happen, and Live Without Regret, Richie Norton and Natalie Norton share poignant examples of brilliant inventions that were swiftly dismissed: In 1876, Western Union rejected the telephone, explaining in an internal memo that “The device is inherently of no value to us.” The president of Michigan Savings Bank told Henry Ford’s attorney not to invest in the Ford Motor Company, because “The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty, a fad.” In the 1920s, associates of David Sarnoff, the pioneer of American radio and television, told him “The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?”
Yes, your ideas might not be the equivalent of the telephone or car or radio. But these examples illustrate that even the most incredible ideas may originally have been seen as ludicrous and laughable. Even the most incredible ideas get rejected. Thankfully, their inventors persevered despite the criticism and skepticism of others.
Again, this doesn’t mean you need to put pressure on yourself to produce pivotal ideas. Rather, it’s the exact opposite. In other words, it’s vital to accept all our ideas. It’s vital to establish an open door policy. This is what the creative process is all about: receiving each idea with the same respect and appreciation we’d receive a guest in our home. Once we do, once we accept the idea, once we write the idea down, once we get to know it, then we can refine it. Then we can play with it.
But we only get the opportunity to refine it, to play with it, after we invite it in. After all, you don’t know whether an idea is worthwhile or interesting or important until you’ve worked with it, which you can’t do if you squash it when it’s just a seed. After all, you can’t revise a blank page. You need material. Lots of material. You need a starting point. Many starting points.
So wave to your ideas. Let them know it’s safe to come inside, to sit down, and to relax. Because they won’t find any judgment inside your home.