Kill Your Darlings
Always one to bite off more than I could chew, for a long time I never figured out how to say no to any idea that seemed good.
My first instinct after getting a nice idea was to jump headfirst into a brainstorming session, chalk out a plan of action, and begin working on it immediately.
An abandoned project, because I often lost steam after the first few days. Even the attraction of the original idea began to dull down as the days went by. It did not look half as good as it did when I first had it.
Quotes like “Good ideas must die so that great ideas may live” often kept calling for attention from the recesses of my mind, but I managed to ignore them and worked on one seemingly good idea after another without pausing to assess its true worth.
Unsurprisingly, for the better part of three decades I left behind a trail of unfinished projects that started out with what seemed like a good idea. This pattern was frustrating to say the least. Figuring out that my scanner personality was partially responsible for all this was but a small consolation.
Thankfully, the 80/20 principle I adopted as part of my simplicity drive solved this problem once and for all.
Why 80/20 works
Applying the 80/20 principle to your creative projects, it follows that 80% of your creative output stems from just 20% of your ideas.
When you work with this principle, it ensures that you don’t hoard your ideas and attempt to execute all of them. You have got to choose. Naturally, only the best ideas can be allowed to stay. This means that you have to deliberate over all of your ideas in order to decide on the best ones.
In the time it takes to make this choice, it becomes clear that many of your ideas are not as great as you initially thought them to be. They look like discarded projects in the making, so out they go.
What you’re left with are only those ideas that you’re so sure about that you can go ahead with them confidently. In this case, any resistance you face while executing them is not to the ideas themselves, though it may seem so, but to the way you’re going about implementing them. Such resistance usually disappears when you take a refreshing time-out or find a breakthrough that smashes down your misgivings.
Ruminate a little
It is natural to get attached to all of your ideas, but holding onto them works against you. When it comes to transforming your ideas into reality, the odds turn in your favor when you begin with your best ideas.
Sometimes it does so happen that the not-so-great ideas go on to yield stupendous results. But an extended pause for thought can help reveal the potential of even such average-sounding ideas. That’s why it’s important that you don’t start working on a concept as soon as it occurs to you.
Walk around with your ideas for a few days to see if they gain momentum or fizzle out. If it’s the latter, be brutal and let go of them. Or, to borrow a phrase from Stephen King, kill your darlings. It’s for the best.
- December 6th, 2013