Piles of Ideas

I often talk about how sketching is an important step in making something. Whether with pencil and paper, or a keyboard, generating ideas is essential. I struggled with this early on in my career because I felt like putting something down on paper gave it a permanence greater than its value. I thought that by recording something, I was accepting ownership and responsibility for ideas I wasn’t sure of.

Over time, I came to realize that the only way to get to the good ideas was to trudge through all the obvious and bad ones first. Don’t get me wrong: flashes of inspiration happen, but ideas rarely pop out of your head fully formed and ready to go to work. More times that not, ideas are ugly, raw, embarrassing things that you want to slink away from. Most of my ideas never leave this stage.

I want a big sprawling mass of ugly ideas because it helps get past the most obvious ones, and improves the chance for something really interesting to reveal itself. Because the real shape of an idea isn’t an explosion, but evolution. In order for an idea to become something valuable, it needs to be nurtured. It must be molded and fortified into the best version of itself. And that refinement is where our creativity shines. Our ability to combine and link ideas to make them stronger. One small idea opens the door to another. And once you can see that new pathway, it too opens the door to another idea that wasn’t visible from the start.

This piece originally appeared on The Pastry Box Project.