I cannot think of any better time of year to contemplate the mystery of ideas. For at least a moment, but preferably for a lifetime, I am asking you to consider the possibility that ideas and inspiration may come from an inexplicable source, from something divine and alive, perhaps from your own soul or as some may say, even from God Herself. An idea can come out of a desperate plea or, more often, from a simple opening created in stillness.
However you choose to think about the concept of ideas that come to us, or through us, there is this universal truth: we all get them.
But we most definitely do not always notice them, or invite them, or act on them. I think that much of the time we swat them away like flies. Why? I guess we are often too busy, too comfortable, too skeptical, too insecure, or just too darn attached to inertia. It’s just easier to ignore an idea than to engage in it.
In her newest book, Big Magic : Creative Living Beyond Fear, Elizabeth Gilbert has this to say about ideas:
Ideas are driven by a single impulse: to be made manifest. And the only way…is through collaboration with a human partner.
Ideas can be as varied as the people who host them, but I am talking about the creative ideas that spur us to make something new, or change something old. An idea may come as a whisper or it may include a bodily sensation such as excitement mixed with nervousness. And when you’re truly lucky, the idea may grip you with such force that there is only one way to go with it: forward.
We are all creative beings after all, and I think we are just happier when we are creating something, even if it just a clever and satisfying tweak to our environment or routine, but especially when it is something even bigger.
So how can we invite ideas, the kind of another realm, the ones that bring joy and change and creations of all kinds?
Well since you asked, here’s my answer based on my own experiences as well as a boatload of reading on the topic (because it intrigues me to no end).
Eliminate Chaos. Eliminate all of it, or as much as you can. Clear the decks, because ideas prefer a clear path. They cannot reach you if they are tripping over the clutter in and around you. Clean up the mess, literally and figuratively, and ideas will stand a chance of getting your attention.
For the love of ideas, Take Care of Yourself. You know what to do. Eat well, sleep well, get exercise, keep a reasonable schedule.
Pay Attention. When you receive that idea, don’t swat it away. It may hang around for a while, and you may get another chance at it, but eventually it will give up on you and move on. We’re all going to miss out on some ideas, but don’t let them all get away; especially not the big, scary ones, because those are rare and amazing. The bigger the commitment, the bigger the payoff.
Follow Your Curiosities. Every new invention, creation, positive change or idea started with a question. What about this? What if..? What really happened? What if I tried that? I wonder who, what , where…? Consider that your curiosities are gifts, leading you somewhere new. I don’t care if you are ninety years old, we all have curiosities. Have the conversation, take the new road, ask the darn questions. Even when it is inconvenient or unsettling or out of your comfort zone, don’t accept what you know as all you want to know. Allow curiosity. Follow it. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it brought the human to life.
Take Your Ideas Seriously. Please. I don’t mean in a rigid, stoic sort of way. I mean consider them. Play with them. Don’t be quick to dismiss them. Ideas come to us for a reason. Focus on it. Obsess over it if you have that luxury, but at least commune with an idea in a consistent manner, as soon as you can. Devote yourself to an idea and watch it grow. Be afraid if you must, but do it anyway. Make mistakes, ask for help, feel silly trying, inconvenience someone, but follow that damn idea. It’s yours.
That’s the best I’ve got.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and most of all, I hope you enjoy the mystery. Love the mystery. Leave some room for a new idea, and pull it close. It chose you.