Pop a paw in the air if you’re a creative who’s thought, “Huh, that was a pretty good idea I just had. BET IT WAS A FLUKE THAT’LL NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN.”
Hey, hi there. It’s me, your people. The thought of running out of ideas is a struggle I’ve felt in the marrow of my bones. It tingles, and not in a good, fun way.
Most creatives dread running out of ideas.
In fact, the idea of a dreamy creative career used to scare the pinto beans out of me for this very reason. That fear was almost enough to chase me far away from any work that involved relying on my brain to consistently come through—because that’s a big, hefty, hard nope, preceded by a record scratch and everything, amirite?
ADHDears are used to questioning ourselves already, so many of worry about running out of ideas for our creative projects, businesses, and lives in general—especially when we’ve already had our fair share of them. Where will they keep coming from?! When will they dry up?! They have to stop coming eventually, don’t they?
Well, if that was the case, this would be the MOST disappointing heap of false-promise click bait on the Internet. Worse than the most expertly-placed Rick Roll. (Side note: why does making this reference make me feel ancient?)
I used to think this was the case though. I’ve known I wanted to write since age seven, when I strung together my first coherent work of fiction on our big-butt-behemoth Dell desktop, a staple of the 1990’s.
But as I got older and my brain developed the adorable habit of existing in a constant state of doubt, I started to wonder, “Is that even a realistic option for someone like me? How long before I start running out of ideas?”
Luckily, there’s a really simple, reliable method for making sure your Idea Tree is always full of ripe, luscious fruit for you to harvest. Fair warning though, you might roll your eyes when you first see it.
Here’s the secret to how I consistently come up with interesting ideas:
I intentionally believe I always have interesting ideas.
…YUP. So dead simple and easy to dismiss, but hear me out, fam.
Never running out of ideas really is that simple.
If I’m writing, coaching, or just trying to figure something out, things don’t always come to me right away. I used to hate this—like, with every measly atom of my being. It awakened a flash-fiery rage in my belly that would burn clean through any desire I had to be patient for long enough to come up with an answer. Sound familiar?
I thought that lag time meant that I was stuck, out of my element, or that something was wrong with what I was doing. The other shoe has dropped, I’d think. My good ideas are gone. I’m stuck with the ones that suck more than a Roomba in a house full of unbrushed cats. Cool. Very high-drama stuff. Severely unhelpful.
Now when the idea I want doesn’t occur to me immediately, I just kind of shrug and tell myself, “All right, cool, I’ll toss it into my subconscious and it’ll pop out when it’s ready.”
And then I do the most glorious thing: I stop thinking about it. Not my job anymore!
Ideas are your brain’s version of pee.
My unconscious brain will continue working away beneath the surface as I go about my life. Like a pie that just needs some time to bake or a rough rock that needs time to go through a tumbler, waiting is just a necessary part of the process.
I know that if I just trust that process—the same one creatives and entrepreneurs have been trusting for centuries, so far—it’ll work out, especially without my control-freaky hands in the pie, fussing around and preventing magic from happening.
And since I believe and trust that my brain will give me a brilliant idea when it’s ready, that’s what ends up happening. Like, every damn time. I know! Bananas, right?
Because as long as you’re experiencing life and paying attention, running out of ideas is impossible for your brain. Worrying otherwise is like worrying that you’ll never pee again, even though you’re drinking water. Why waste time wondering whether or not an inevitable thing will happen?! You know it’ll happen.
Sometimes, you just have to trust in the astonishing ability of your brain.
Trust that it’s capable of greatness without all the pressure.
Release your grip on the outcome so it has the freedom to happen on its own.
Your unassuming skull-dweller is, after all, some of the most advanced technology on this Goldilocks rock we call home. Put some respect on its name!
Because it’s really none of my business when my next great idea will come, so I can save time and energy by just fully believe that it will. And, much like your fit friend with the Insta feed full of smiley, sweaty water bottle selfies, it always works out. And I celebrate when it does!
Wanna give it a try yourself?
Trust yourself to have cool, brilliant ideas
To get this working for you, start practicing the act of releasing ideas and solutions that don’t occur to you right away. Detach yourself from the belief that you have to perfectly figure everything out in the first round—easier said than done, for us wild-brained types—and give yourself permission to trust that you will get it in due time.
I make this easier on myself by actually saying it:
“Okay, I’m just going to leave that idea to my subconscious. It’ll come through—it always does.”
This little mantra is just waiting to prove itself true to you. The first step is believing it!
That sounds easy, but it actually takes some practice—new beliefs usually do. So if you sit with this thought for a while and it doesn’t “feel” true, just keep at it. Fresh ideas often take a while to sink in.
You don’t have to believe this supportive new thought completely: just try to believe it a little more every time you say it. That’s plenty.
This incremental change adds up, and I promise your reality will step up to match. Maybe in small ways, at first, but the effect of this gets bigger and easier to notice the more you do it.
And the most important step is the last one I mentioned: celebrate every idea your brain offers you.
Why? Well, would you be super jazzed about giving gifts to someone who never, ever thanked you for them? Or even complained that they weren’t good enough? I sure as shit wouldn’t be. FOH with that nonsense.
But we do this to our brains all the time—and then we’re surprised when they hold out on us!
Every creative idea your brain gives you, imperfect as it may seem, is a gift. Decide in advance that your ideas are great, even if you can’t quite see why yet. Treat them like the presents they are and watch them start to pile up.
You’ll always have good ideas, as long as you’re open to having them!
So avoid sabotaging yourself by saying and thinking things like…
- I never have ideas, except for when they suck
- It’s so hard to find inspiration
- It sounded better in my head but it’s meh in reality
- This idea is stupid and not worth exploring more
- I have too many ideas and I never do anything with them, anyway
Statements like these shut down your ability to create before you’ve even begun. They present a perfectly unsatisfying reality that your brain will try to bring to life, if you believe them enough.
So instead, believe in your own brilliance. I believe in your brilliance, and we probably haven’t even met. If I can do it, you absolutely can!
And don’t sleep on the importance of starting this practice today. Because the world legitimately needs your good ideas, and it’s possible we’ve already gone too long without them. Let that end today.
Now run off and have some fun playing in those brainstorms, friend! I can’t wait to see where it leads you.