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How to Have a Great Idea

The best ideas are born spontaneously, and they will strike you when you least expect them: in the shower, in the car, in the middle of a meeting with your boss. When you have a big idea, you will most likely want to document it. Maybe you’ll scribble a note on a paper napkin or text-message the idea to yourself.

How does having a great idea make you feel? Excited? Overwhelmed? Does anyone feel angry when they have a new idea? Probably not. When I have a new idea, especially one that I know I can actualize, I feel most alive. I feel grateful.

So, how can you have great ideas more often? Think of it this way: when you have to do something you don’t really want to do by a certain deadline, like paying a bill, the fact that you have to pay that bill will burden you until you do it. But once you pay the bill, you will feel relief.

Living a creative, rich, idea-filled life is not always fun and games. It requires work and some discipline. Your need to have great ideas should a debt you owe yourself. Paying the bill will allow you to keep the lights or the heat working in your mind.

Be your own bill collector. Every day, you need to earn as much as you can to pay off that debt: experience, observation, human interaction, and an interest in the world.

You probably don’t even realize how many wondrous things are already bubbling in your mind. How can you catch the ideas you’re already making?

No matter how many friends you have, or how much time you spend with other people, you will inevitably spend a lot of time by yourself. Maybe you commute alone by car. Maybe you have a job that requires careful focus and silence. Maybe you sleep alone. I assume you use the bathroom by yourself.

In those moments, you maintain a dialogue with yourself. Your brain is never quiet. You probably reflect on things that happened to you that day – you replay your observations, analyze your interactions with other people, reinforce things you learned, note things you want to change, or choose things that you want to improve.

Start paying attention to your internal dialogue. Make it a point to listen to what you have to say to yourself! The ideas lurk there.

How can you actualize all these great new ideas? Carry them with you (see photo above) for a period of time. You need to keep the colorful sack of ideas near you always. It should be as precious as a purse or a backpack with all your most important belongings. Never let it out of your sight.

You will know that you’re ready to actualize that idea when it completely overtakes you. You won’t be able to stand keeping it in your head any longer! At that point, if you’ve been following all my advice, the “how” will be obviously apparent.

(Photo by skippyjon)


  1. Sometimes good ideas need to ferment. Part of what I dislike about Twitter- a social network I love above all others- is that it encourages you to fire off ideas quickly, rapid fire. That has its place, in improv, but it also stops you from developing some ideas that need more work, and seeing them through to their full potential. Blogging every day can be the same way. Sometimes I leave a post unedited for weeks, before returning to it and seeing what I really wanted to say.

  2. Most of my good ideas, for stories come from overexxagerated mistakes I make in my own life, problems with girls, job, or family stretched to disastrously comedic. For example: you lie to impress a girl, she’s hanging out with your friends and now the critical moment comes when the lies returns as one of your friends blows up your spot. Now you have a chance to come clean or really throw in a big lie. I my stories the Main Character would do something like claim to his friend that Dave Mathews Band is great. The situation explodes when the girl buys ticket to a show for his birthday. Trapped in his own personal hell his only choice is to fake explosive diarherria and call off the date.

    I’m not saying that ever happened to me, but we pull situations from our own lives, twist them and doll them up with conflict. If I couldn’t do that I’d be likely to lie a lot more to make my life at least seem interesting… Just sayin

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