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“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.” – John Steinbeck
We live in a world where the idea is king. Everybody wants a great idea. And who can blame them – or us? A great idea can be the ticket to fame, fortune, true love, adventure, musical accomplishment… anything you want; in this too, you’re only limited by your imagination
The reason so many of us don’t come up with great ideas is that we want that brilliant idea NOW! So we discard ideas that we think aren’t world-stoppingly brilliant. We do this because we’re labouring under the delusion that we must keep our mind empty – as if only an empty spot will be able to be filled. As if our mind isn’t a muscle that needs exercise and practice.
So we wait. and somehow wait for that flash of inspiration, that genius idea for a work of art or invention or solution to a problem. But great ideas don’t come if we spend our time trying to keep ‘inferior’ ideas away. They don’t feel welcome.
From scarcity to plenty
It hurts me to say it, but having one idea isn’t special. Even if the idea is good or even great, it’s not enough, generally. Unless your idea is Facebook or the Rubik’s Cube. But still, individual ideas are rarely special; the ability to create ideas, strengthen them and help them evolve, that’s what matters.
Ideas beget ideas. Think of ideas as a kind of family tree. A single idea, properly nurtured, will create more ideas, which will lead to more ideas, and very soon the tree flourishes.
Or think of them, like John Steinbeck did, as rabbits. We need to have them around, nurture them, play with them, and before we know it, we’ll be overrun with the adorable little things.
Coming up with ideas, and building on them, is a habit. It gets easier over time. When we train our minds to develop ideas, to embrace them and play with them, more ideas will flow. It is in this field that improvisation training offers one of its most powerful tools: the ability to create, celebrate, explore and then discard ideas. It is training us to create an abundance of ideas, to making our minds into places where ideas want to come.