The Stages of an Idea

I had an idea today, for a yarn project.  So far it has followed the usual trajectory of my ideas:

  1. Inspiration: that thing’s neat, but I could make it neater. Or, what if I did this thing this way rather than that old way that everyone does that looks too simple…
  2. Development: also, I could tweak this, and this, and (scribbles on graph paper)
  3. Enthusiasm: wow, this is coming together so neatly!  I can’t wait to show everyone how clever I am with this!
  4. Doubt: this isn’t working as smoothly as it should.  Maybe it isn’t so clever.  Maybe it is, but my skills aren’t good enough to realize it.  Maybe other people will think I copied it from someone else instead of coming up with it all by myself, and think I’m not as clever as I know I am.  (Am I?)
  5. Crash: this sucks. I suck. How could I have thought it would work?  I can’t stand to look at this and be reminded of my failure.
  6. Hibernation: weeks/months/years pass
  7. Reconsideration: actually, this is rather good.  Where are my notes?

I don’t always get to steps 6 and 7.  Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that I haven’t always gotten to step 7, since usually the abandoned designs/projects remain in my possession.  On rare occasions I end up at 7a, scrapping the project to use the materials for something else.

Sometimes I branch off to 4a, a variant of Doubt in which my idea is still clever, but is it even possible to convey it to another person?  My cleverness can’t be properly appreciated if it isn’t understood.  There’s a subvariant 4b, in which the priority that makes me proudest of my design might be one that no one else shares (e.g., never cutting the yarn until the end), in which case other people might go, “so?”

To be fair, I’m getting a bit better about this.  The crashes are shallower and end sooner, and the doubts are more easily answered, sometimes even with the healthier sentiment of so what if no one else sees it?  I know it’s cool.  (And, of course, I always have friends and family to show things to, even though my ego craves recognition from people who don’t have a built-in appreciation for me and my stuff and my clearly staggering intellect.  Yeah, it’s hard getting over being the special smart kid.)

Aside from generally trying to grow up and get healthier mental attitudes, there are a couple of things that I think have helped this.  One is probably my medications.  While they don’t totally fix things, they do tend to flatten the slope I stand on a bit, so it’s easier to resist the downward tendency and I don’t slide as far when I do slide.

Another is, and this may sound mean-spirited, browsing patterns on Ravelry and seeing how many frankly simplistic and derivative patterns show up, usually for sale rather than free.  Most of the time my first reaction is scorn, which is not very nice and I’m trying to squelch it, but my other reaction is hey, people apparently get them anyway (or at least look at them), and my ideas are more clever/original/interesting than that.  So chances are that if I put something out there I wouldn’t be getting the negative reactions I worry about in stage 4.  Of course, I still get hung up on 4a (because if it’s clever enough for me to think it’s clever it’ll be hard to convey that concisely to people outside of my head) but it’s an improvement.

I think.

(I’m in stages 2 and 3 right now but will probably hit stage 4 as soon as I try to actually make a prototype rather than just drawing it on graph paper and working out technique in my head.)

I almost forgot one other thing that helps: everything is a learning experience.  I’m looking at a crochet idea right now and even if it doesn’t work I’ll have tried a new technique or two.  So the idea after that will be much more likely to work.  And I can probably do what I’m thinking of in knitting too.  So that’s something.


4 thoughts on “The Stages of an Idea

  1. I think your steps sum up my approach to all creative projects, too! Substitute ‘writing’ or ‘drawing’ or anything, really…


        1. Aha, figured out why I wasn’t seeing a reply link for your comment. Glad it’s you! I was going to email you and Kiefer soon anyway to point you to what will probably be the next post, on Chrono Trigger. That should be going up this weekend, probably Saturday.


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