As Elizabeth Gilbert says in Big Magic…we have creative ideas for a reason. They quite literally come to us because they want to be made manifest through us. And when we choose to ignore them, to bury them, to stuff them into a “someday” closet, to believe they are “too hard” “too big” or “too ludicrous”—they leave us and go on their way to be made manifest by someone else. And it’s imperative that we learn how to bring them to life.
Because when we don’t, these ideas leave us and take all of their good feelings with them. That sense of inspiration and possibility we feel when an idea hits us for the first time dissipates when we refuse to bring a creative idea to life. And as it disappears (or worse, as you see someone else bring it to life), you’re left with feelings of anger, disappointment, apathy, stuckness, I-don’t-know-ness.
You feel unmotivated. You find yourself procrastinating. You might even call yourself lazy. You start to believe that the world is filled with lack, scarcity, and opportunities for other people but not you.
The way this phenomenon plays out with our creative ideas happens with anything and everything we pretend we don’t want. It’s just like that Avril Lavigne song, Sk8tr Boi—if you continue to ignore your creative ideas, one day you will find yourself standing in a crowd looking up at someone who chose instead to believe in themselves and bring it to life.
To avoid that moment, it’s imperative that we learn how to bring our creative ideas to life. The simple 4-step process outlined below will help you move from idea into action, release any fear that may come up, and go out into the world and inspire and bring to life the creative idea that is meant for you.
1. Get Visionary
What is the best, biggest version of your idea? What does *WILD* ludicrous success look like to you? What does it feel like?
Set a timer for 10 – 12 minutes and free write your answers to these questions. At first, it might be really hard to get anything out onto the page. That’s okay. Keep going with it until your pen starts to flow. You might even start by writing about how this is so ridiculous, how this seems like a nice idea, but it’s not actually going to help you bring this creative idea to life, and really even if you did get super clear about what wild success looks like, it’s so impossible and so far away (like becoming the Queen of England) that it will never, ever happen.
Once all of those thoughts limiting “can’t” ideas come out of your head and onto paper, you’ll be able to tap into the visionary part of yourself. The part of yourself that remembers what it’s like to feel childlike wonder and possibility. Use that part of yourself to map out a clear vision of what you really want.
2. Remove What’s Getting In the Way
Now it’s time to dive into what’s really holding us back from bringing our creative idea to life. The fear that’s getting in the way.
If the free-writing exercise from Step #1 worked well for you, great. You can use it again, except this time you’re answering this question:
“When you think about speaking your vision out loud, like telling a friend, co-worker, or family member about it, what comes up for you?”
What often comes up for me is a feeling of shame or embarrassment. I worry someone close to me will think I’m being naive, unrealistic, or asking for too much. The nasty voice inside my head says, “What gives you the right to think you’re that special?” This free-writing exercise helps me quiet that voice.
If you’re having trouble writing these answers out, try going for a silent walk (i.e. no podcast or music listening) for at least 20 minutes and see what comes up when you’re left with your own thoughts and a little fresh air.
It can also be helpful to work with a coach or practitioner to help you identify any thought patterns or stories that may be keeping you stuck.
3. Create a Safe Container for Yourself to Practice and Grow
With your vision clearly defined, and your fear clearly identified, you can begin to move forward and take tiny actions to bring your creative vision to life. I call this creating a safe container for yourself to practice and grow—because giving yourself permission to bring your creative ideas to life takes practice.
Here’s an example of how you could create a safe container for yourself:
Let’s say your creative idea is writing an article for a big magazine. An idea for the piece came to you…you created your biggest, best vision for it (which includes sending a letter to the editor, publication, and then a viral internet blow up that leads to a ton of paid speaking opportunities that allow you to quit your job and travel the world). You identified what’s holding you back (you’re scared to actually sit down and write it because you’re afraid you aren’t good enough, that you can’t actually do it, that it’s a stupid idea, and that even if it does in some crazy universe actually get published, it might upset some people in your circle, and they might say judgmental things about you). But you are not going to let that hold you back!
You are ready to take action. So you sit down at your computer, open up a blank Google doc, and proceed to freak out and have nothing to say for twenty minutes.
It may sound counterintuitive, but this moment is actually a good thing! It may not feel like it, but you just made a lot of progress!!!
You just took a tiny action step forward, and you are now further along in bringing your creative idea to life than you were before.
The key here is to create a container for yourself that feels safe, so that you can practice and grow and begin to bring your creative idea to life and build self-trust at the same time (this self-trust is what fuels you forward).
This container of safety will look different for every single one of us. For my client J, setting a beautiful vase of flowers on the desk where she sat down to write made her feel love and protected. My client K would treat herself to her favorite coffee drink before sitting down to write
Play around with a few things until you find what feels good. Then commit to working on your creative idea for a set amount of time that feels doable (i.e. writing every Saturday for 90 minutes for a month) instead of seeing it as a commitment you are making for the rest of your life (i.e. well, if I start a blog, I have to do it forever otherwise I will have failed, and I’m not sure I can do it forever, or that I even want to do it forever, so what’s the point of doing it at all?).
Again, working with a coach or practitioner can be very powerful at this stage of your journey because coaches are experts at holding space, providing accountability, and finding new perspectives and solutions.
4. Rip the Band-Aid Off
Of course, you want to actually write the article (or make the dance video, or paint the painting, or direct the film), and to do that, you have to do what I call “ripping the band-aid off” — you just have to do it, and I find it’s best to do it all at once (or as much as you can all at once as possible) after you have given yourself a sufficient amount of time to practice within your safe container.
In this way, stages 3 and 4 of bringing a creative idea to life are kind of like training for and then running a marathon. Stage 3, when you are practicing moving through fear, giving yourself permission, and getting comfortable with your own creativity, is similar to the weeks (or months) of physical training you do before your race day. During this period, you are building the muscle and stamina you will need to make it across the finish line on the big day.
Stage 4, is your race day. The day you actually do the thing, even if it isn’t perfect or exactly how you wanted it to be when you make it across the finish line you feel really, really great.