Even when they're this cute, ideas first.

Life fuels ideas, but…

We talk a lot around Ideasicle’s virtual halls about how important it is to interact with life to help spur ideas. To read, go to movies, hit the museum, and otherwise simply live life. We want the billions of brain cells we’ve got churning on a creative project, even subconsciously, to be introduced to fresh, external thoughts that may just yield that big new revelation.

But let’s face it. Sometimes life gets in the way. And if ideas are your lifeblood, it can’t.

A couple weeks ago I was running around with my family in Maine on a mini-vacation. Suddenly, and without warning, ideas started hitting me, rapid-fire, for a project I was working on for Ideasicle. I don’t know why. Could’ve been the almonds I ate (they have Omega-3 fatty acids), the amount of sleep I had the night before (those alpha waves), or some successful incubation going on. Regardless, I wasn’t planning on this “idea onslaught” happening right then and right there. What made matters worse was that I had one child wanting to putt on the putting green with me (this hotel had an awesome putting green), and another child wanting me to pull him around in the pool.

But there I was, waist deep in the pool, and these ideas started to hit me. Should I interrupt my playtime with my six year old and record these ideas? Or pray that I don’t forget the ideas and play on? That kid is very hard to resist!

To be an idea person, life must come second.

As you most definitely know, to be an idea person today, there is no “on” and there is no “off.” There is just an idea person standing in a pool (like I was) and then, when you least expect it, the ideas hit you. Could be at a restaurant, watching TV, at a ballgame, or wherever life takes you. The creative process is less in our control than we like to think (see “What the hell is up with the shower and ideas?” post for more on that).

Interacting with life increases the odds of ideas happening, sure. But the key is to never let life get in the way of recording your ideas.

Sounds crude, I know. It’s rude to suddenly interrupt your life to record an idea. But creativity knows no bounds in time or in space. Ideas hit you when they damn well want to hit you. And if ideas are your lifeblood, your essence and your income, it’s critical to obey their wishes. Even at a small social cost.

Let your life know (in advance).

The best approach, I find, is to manage expectations by preparing the people in your life. In general, but also when you know you’re going to be chomping on an assignment. For example, let’s say you’re going out to dinner with friends. Tell them you may have to pop off and record a note on your iPhone from time to time right up front. Since you are an idea person yourself, you probably hang out with other idea people, so it won’t be a big deal. But if in “mixed company,” here’s a tip. Tell your friends, “You just inspired something,” even if they didn’t, and go off and record your note. Thinking they inspired you makes them feel better about your absence. Is it a lie? Maybe. But the idea is your lifeblood. Obey its wishes.

So you may be wondering what I did in the pool that day. Did I continue playing or did I interrupt my playtime to record the ideas? As you may suspect, ideas are very much my lifeblood so I got out, dried my hands, recorded the ideas on my iPhone and jumped back into the pool. Took about a minute. My son knew exactly what I was doing and was unfazed. He is conditioned now to know, “That’s what Dad does sometimes.”

And if he wants to go to college someday, he’ll recognize that it’s a small price for him to pay!


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