Don’t Squirrel Your Ideas Away!


April 11, 2013 by Nichole Eck


Hideaway (Photo credit: The hills are alive (Taking time off….))

I know it’s tempting.

You want to spend years reworking and rewriting and rethinking that one great idea you had in high school because it has so much potential if only you could get it just right.

You want to stash your best plots, your perfectly nuanced characters, your most riveting titles, and your highly philosophical yet totally relatable conflicts away until you have critical accolades (optional) and a national audience that will fully appreciate your genius (required).

But, inevitably, if you continue to squirrel away your best ideas waiting for angels to announce the perfect time for the great reveal…then you’re going to end up (very quickly, probably) as a reclusive, nutty wishy-washy wisher with all the intentions in the world but nothing to show for it. 

I think that deep down we know this. So why do we do this to ourselves?

Perhaps we imagine that god or the nine muses or whoever is in charge of doling out creativity has already given us our lifetime allotment of brilliant nuts, and we must stash them away because what would life be like if we didn’t have any secret ideas developing in the dark?

Terra Cotta Pots

Terra Cotta Pots (Photo credit: beebrisk)

But here’s a little secret…

There is no swiftly approaching winter, no dearth of creativity and ideas that you must feverishly prepare for.

Likewise, there is no perfectly fertilized spring up and coming in which your carefully preserved idea will flourish like never before.

Ideas do not come dripping down from clouds, floating rationed from heaven in little gift-wrapped boxes with labels handwritten by the muses in frilly cursive.

Ideas are planted in the eternal spring all around us. Ideas beget new ideas. And the mind more experienced at nurturing and harvesting ideas will find that there is never any shortage of them.

Ashley hates eating dirt. Who doesn't?

Ashley hates eating dirt. Who doesn’t? (Photo credit: qousqous)

I might even go as far as to say this:

the way to find new ideas is to use up the ones you already have.

Stop thinking about them! Develop them, write them, get them out of your head once and for all so something else can start germinating in the flowerpot you’ve finally weeded out.

Don’t let obsessive planning for the future stop you from acting in the present.

Do you have ideas you’ve been stashing away for another day?


24 thoughts on “Don’t Squirrel Your Ideas Away!

  1. katemsparkes says:

    Yes, but only because I don’t like to cheat on what I’m working on at any given time. The other ideas that come will get their time as soon as I can focus on them properly, instead of trying to divide my attention between two, three, or sixteen different projects. 🙂

    • Nichole Eck says:

      That’s a good point. I don’t think that “Divide and conquer” idiom applies to dividing attention. I’m a terrible multi-tasker, so I just try to focus on one idea at a time, like you. I try not to spend too much time on any one idea though, which can sometimes be a challenge for me.

  2. Something I once read comes to mind. I can’t remember the exact quote, but it’s something like, “If you’re truly creative, you will run out of time long before you run out of ideas.”
    Great post.

    • Nichole Eck says:

      That’s a great quote! I wish I’d heard it before I wrote this post. It manages to be both encouraging and a little discouraging at the same time. I mean, don’t you wish you had time to write everything you could think of? But I guess not having enough time is way better than not having enough ideas, so optimism triumphs!

      Thanks for the thoughts, and thanks for stopping by!

  3. I don’t have any ideas stashed away. The muses don’t visit me very often, so when they do I act!

    I wrote something similar yesterday in a post called “HOW TO START WRITING”. You post is much more eloquent than mine, though.

  4. I have really found, the more I write, the more ideas I have. There is no way I will ever finish all of my ideas, as it seems they are never ending! This was a great post, I really enjoyed the visual of squirreling them away!

    • Nichole Eck says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed it! I sometimes feel the same way, but I’d rather have too little time than too few ideas, although it can be a little overwhelming sometimes.

  5. Val Mills says:

    I do have a drawer full of unfinished projects, ones that became less attractive when another idea popped into my head. Nichole, I love the way you take a simple idea and make it such a pleasure to read.

    • Nichole Eck says:

      The great thing about keeping a drawer about less attractive ideas is that once you get a new idea, you can rifle through the drawer and see if anything in it is worth pulling out, sprucing up, and pairing with the new idea. I rarely think of all the elements of a story at once; the perfect combination of elements is usually scattered across years of thinking!

      Glad you enjoy my writing, and thanks for stopping by, Val!

  6. Chris says:

    Amen and amen again!! Carpe Diem and that means now!

    • Nichole Eck says:

      Carpe Diem was my catchphrase for two years in high school! It motivated me to go out there and get a lot of things done. Maybe I need to put it on my mirror or something…

      Thanks for the comment, Chris!

  7. Cat Johnstone says:

    I really like this! It is such a good reminder to trust that there will be more. It is a risk, but we have to do it. Great reminder.

    • Nichole Eck says:

      “It’s a risk, but we have to do it.” That is true about so much in life! Almost everything I’d venture to say. We have to learn to weigh the risks against the future regrets. And we have to trust.

      Thanks for the thoughts, Cat!

  8. I wish I had the time to use up all my ideas. And of course, I wish some of them were better 😉

    • Nichole Eck says:

      Better to have too many ideas than too much time! And I always wish that I had better ideas; the trick is to just write the ideas that you do have really well. After so many thousands of years of humanity, I’m not convinced there is such a thing as an “original idea” anymore.

      Thanks for reading!

  9. tyroper says:

    Oh yeah, but that’s because I already working hard on a current book. First draft done. Can’t think of anything else.

    • Nichole Eck says:

      Good for you for having a whole draft done! I’ve heard that it’s helpful to tackle some new writing in between drafts, but I’ve always been notoriously bad at following that advice.

      Thanks for your comment, tyroper!

  10. How refreshing! It feels like we have to hold on to those ideas so tightly but by letting them go and moving on, as you suggest, maybe it’s easier to evolve to even better ones. I think this is something I need to keep in mind!

    • Nichole Eck says:

      I’m glad you found this useful! If it helps you to move on, it can be useful to keep a list of old ideas that weren’t being productive. Some of my best ideas became great because I combined them with something else that I never thought I’d end up using.

  11. Agreed. I think it was Seth Godin who said a 90 percent idea on paper is better than a 100 percent idea in your head. Get the ideas out of your head so new ones can harvest.

  12. jadereyner says:

    Hi. New to your blog and just starting out myself. I agree with you completely on this post – your head can get full of ideas and then you try to work through them and sort them and then they all get jumbled up and before you know it you have nothing. I think you give very sensible advice and I love your blog. 🙂

  13. Maddie Cromar says:

    I think I needed this!

  14. “the way to find new ideas is to use up the ones you already have.”
    Great thought. The whole post is a positive reinforcement to what I have been discovering over the past year.

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