April 4, 2012

You know those ideas you have piled in your head? All those things you'll get around to when you have free time? The stuff you want to make but isn't time sensitive enough for you to actually start working on? These ideas can sit in your head for years. And they never get less potent as when they first formed. They're attached to you, feeding off your energy, taking up precious brain space, and you love them, because you'll work on it this weekend or tomorrow night and you get excited about starting them over and over.

It's a funk but you don't know it. It feels like excitement but it isn't real. It's like the excitement from a new year's resolution, or when you start a new diet. The possibilities feel empowering, until you get to the first wall.

But I think I found something that fights this. Take your idea, put your pen to paper, and start sketching. That thing in your head is so small, so malleable, you have no idea what it looks or feels like until you get it out. You'll watch it take shape right in front of you in your notebook. Don't think about it too much and come up with as many variations as you can. Put your pen down for a couple hours and then do it again. You'll probably have a few ideas that stand out, so hone in on those. Refine them until you have something you're excited about. And take comfort in knowing that even though the final product won't look much like this pre-prototype at all, you're already so much farther than the whole time this idea was festering.

What if you're no good at sketching, you say? Don't be silly, nobody's going to look at this thing you're doodling. That's all it is, doodling. In class, maybe it was you, there was always someone doodling in their notebook, even though he was probably paying full attention to the lecture. Those doodles came out of a place that is automatic. All he had to do was put his pen to paper, and things would come out, almost involuntarily, along the margins and between the lines of his notes.

You don't necessarily have to draw pictures. Words are sketches too. Jot down words, connect them with dots, make an outline, write down some names, anything to get it on paper.

So now you have this sketch, and you don't have any of the real product built or started, but you feel it now, looking at this almost-thing that stands for the thing you're going to make. You have a taste of it and you want more. You want to get it off the page and into real life. Whenever I have these things sitting in my notebook, I get antsy. Because now there's gold right in front of me and I only have to take it. This feeling is so much stronger than when it was just in your head. You start thinking about what it'll take to do just that first part, and you start daydreaming about the day you actually finish. See the difference there? You moved from thinking about when you're going to start to when you're going to be finished. That's a huge shift, just from taking that first pre-step.

It's like Monday. On Monday you're pretty sad that Friday is so far away. 8 AM on Monday is slow, probably rainy and cloudy, and you're still groggy, sipping your bland office coffee. Monday sucks right? So getting this thing out of your brain, that's like Tuesday. Tuesday is nowhere near Friday, but for some reason, it's so much better than Monday. You're one step closer. Time is moving forward, which you didn't quite believe would happen until it actually did. So congrats. Go out there and make your Tuesdays.