Ideas are like visitors.
At least, that’s the way Elizabeth Gilbert puts it.
To her, ideas are entities separate from the mind and self. (She’s also noted that the Romans used to think of “genius” as creative spirits that live in the walls of an artist’s home.)
That linguistic separation has led us to believe that we are the generators of ideas, but we aren’t. We simply receive them, and if we don’t bring them to the world fully, they find somebody else to do it.
“Our planet is inhabited not only by animals and plants and bacteria and viruses but also by ideas,” she says.
“Ideas are disembodied, energetic life-forms. They are completely separate from us, but capable of interacting with us — albeit strangely. Ideas have no material body, but they do have consciousness, and they most certainly have will. Ideas are driven by a single impulse: to be made manifest. And the only way an idea can be made manifest in our world is through collaboration with a human partner.”
It’s only through the will and effort of a human being that ideas are transferred from the ethers and into the actual.
If you are a creative person, if you are an ambitious person, a daring person, a person with a deep emotional hunger to do something significant, to make something matter, to create art in such a way that it suspends a feeling in the air and other people enter and their lives are then permanently altered — then you are probably a magnet to ideas.
You have ideas all day and all night.
They’re piled up in your Notes app, inbox, and journals.
They’re half-made plans in a Slack room, companies started but abandoned after they proved initially unsuccessful, endeavors jumped into and obsessed over for hours and days until the newness and the high wore off into the monotony of anything else —work—and then left for the next exciting prospect.
The thing about ideas is that they seduce us.
They make us believe we might be better than we are.
That by the virtue of having received them, we are somehow more qualified than someone else to enact them.
The truth is that, if Liz is right—and I sort of suspect she is — these ideas are products of the collective unconscious, sprouting up in the minds of those who are at least open enough to consider possibilities outside of their present realities, a doorway that is often opened through dissatisfaction with that present reality.
So you see a light at the end of your tunnel.
You envision the book that could change it all, the business that your community needs, the project, the purpose, the moment at which your potential is finally actualized and you have finally found the pulse, the heartbeat of your life, the thing by which you might be defined for all of your days to come.
But very few of them are ever made real because you’re using vision to escape your current life instead of using it as a blueprint to re-create your current life, initiating a ripple effect upon the lives of all those around you.
You probably don’t need more inspiration.
You probably don’t need to spend any additional time sorting through the recesses of your mind, your experiences, your potential future outcomes, and what you might or might not want to do with them.
You probably just need to pick an idea or two and stick to it.
You probably just need to decide what is going to matter to you and then let go of everything else.
Vision is a blueprint, but the blueprint is just a piece of paper. It’s the implementation, it’s the bringing together of teams, of tools, of time, that makes it real. It’s not scrapping the project once there’s a roadblock, it’s finding another path to the same destination.
Sometimes, you do have to let go of dreams.
Sometimes, they just aren’t viable. There isn’t an audience or a market gap. You aren’t the precise person to birth them into reality; you’re being called by what is actually yours to create.
It’s not that you have to choose once and then never again, but that at some point, you have to choose and then you have to commit, or risk living the rest of your life in the in-between.
You have to choose what you’re going to create and then envision its highest potential. Then you must show up every day and write through the tension, create through the frustration, hold up that ideal in your mind like the very peak of the mountaintop, and then you must walk every single day until the hike is no longer labor, but a beautiful, albeit arduous, trek to the meaning of your entire life.
You do not think about scaling every mountain in the range, you stick with one and you climb.
I’ve been writing non-stop for years, and I mentor other writers now too.
Believe me, when I tell you, I work with amazing people. They are all brimming past the point of comprehension with ideas, and even deeper than that, burning desire. They want nothing more than to be published; nothing more than to have the ideas that greet them be made manifest through them.
Yet time and time again, the issue of their non-productivity is not that they can’t come up with concepts for books and articles and services, but that they can’t be consistent enough to actually make them work.
Creating is not simply laying out the concept, but adapting through implementation as many times as needed until it finally works.
What we call “writer’s block” is really just what happens when we either don’t know what we’re trying to say, or we’re trying to say it in a way that’s too far removed from the way we naturally think or speak.
Creativity isn’t a well we tap dry. It’s a muscle that strengthens with use. There are an infinite number of things to write about and an infinite number of ways to write about them, and yet, the issue that most people come to me with is not how do I become disciplined enough to write thousands of words every day for years until I finally produce the body of work I am aching to create, but, I just can’t seem to find the time to do it.
That last line is a cop-out. There’s nothing but time. What’s missing is the will to bear discomfort until the practice of writing — the consistency of it—is second nature.
“What do you do when you wake up and you stare at the blank page?” a client asked me.
Fill it, I said.
Just write, and take what works later.
If you are a bold person, if you are someone who is willing to open up your mind and turn your body into a vessel through which something greater will come through you, then you have to get your head out of the clouds and remember that the work of being human is to bring what was once imaginative into actualization.
The best measure of your spiritual, mental, or emotional progress is how you feel each day in your physical life.
This matters because this is the piece that most people are missing. They exist between hopes of ideals, but not the grounding of them. They are more artists in their minds than they are from their bodies of work. They are more innovators in theory than in practice. They are more concerned with how they themselves perceive the world as opposed to how they experience it — and yes, those are two different things.
That difference is the shift between simply living in your mind and then living in your life.
That’s what you have to start doing if you want to bring ideas into form.
That’s what you have to begin with if you want to stop waiting around for your life to be transformed by the virtue of your overpowering inspiration — it won’t be.
You do not need more vision, you already have a vision.
You already know what you want to do.
What you need is the consistency to see it through.