My colleagues sometimes ask me, "Where do you get your ideas?" They're usually wondering about the origins of creative campaigns, a few of which have won marketing awards. I usually point up at the heavens, because the ideas find me.
In her book Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert tells a story about a poet named Ruth Stone, who runs like the wind to scribe every poem that finds her. Stone “hears” the poem coming toward her, and she runs as fast as she can to find pen and paper to take dictation. Sometimes, she would catch a poem like a tiger by the tail, and she would scribe the words backwards, from the last word to the first, and otherwise intact. This is just one example of how we are all channels for ideas to find us. Once it finds us, we have a choice to feed it and nurture it, or to let it go.
I discovered a wonderful children’s picture book that illustrates exactly this notion: What Do You Do With An Idea? written by Kobi Yamada and illustrated by Mae Besom. For Christmas, I gifted this book to my nineteen-year-old daughter, who is starting a creative life in fashion design in New York City. She and I read this book out loud together over and over, just like when she was a child. We realized as we read it just how many ideas we neglect, allow to pass through, without stopping to give it food and attention. Sometimes they are not strategic fits with our business or personal priorities, in which case they become distractions from our bigger purpose. Occasionally we become so infatuated with a new idea that it takes over our thoughts and daydreams. That's when I have experienced Big Magic.
My challenge to myself, and to you, is to acknowledge every idea that comes to you. Take notice. Thank it for finding you. Consciously and ceremoniously let it go if you cannot act on the idea right now. Articulate why you can’t be its keeper – usually because you are busy nurturing another big idea, and this will take you off-track, or maybe you don't have the right skill set. But wish it well. Hope that it will find a worthy collaborator. Someday, when the time is right, by serendipity, you may end up collaborating with just that collaborator!
Simply through the practice of taking notice, I have been astonished at the abundance of creativity I already have in my life. And simply by saying thank you for each one, I have invited more creativity into my life.
Where do you get your ideas?