Do Ideas Come First or Second?

Sometimes there are so many ideas, they’re like a bowl of popcorn while watching tv at night, who cares if a few fall between the cushions, plenty to go around!

Other times, ideas are like your underwear drawer when you’ve forgotten to do the laundry. Uh oh!

When there are lots of ideas to go around, and you are acting on some of these ideas, then you can take ideas for granted. A dime a dozen. What a wonderful state of affairs. But just like a bowl of popcorn is easily consumed, ideas can suddenly be in short supply. You can find yourself digging through the couch cushions and looking hard at that stale kernel, wondering if something can be made from it.

I feel like I am in that state and I am wondering what happened? Where did all the ideas go?

I know exactly what happened! I stopped drawing.

I haven’t made an abstract since before Thanksgiving. Sure, I diddled around a bit in my little book and that kept things from a taking a radical turn, but I haven’t committed to a drawing in more than a week and now I have no ideas.

So, here’s my thesis, ideas are the result of actions. We tend to think it’s the opposite, that ideas come first, and actions follow, like, I have an idea to make cake. Now I am eating cake. How cool!

But that’s not really an idea, it’s an impulse. Doesn’t matter, ideas and impulses are almost the same and good ideas need a lot of impulse embedded in them. That’s why we have all sorts of grand ideas that never manifest. It doesn’t matter how cool your space colony concept is, you’ll never in a million years have enough impulse. Elon Musk might have enough impulse but who cares, back to cake.

While you’re mixing the batter, you may have an idea about adding crushed pistachios (that sounds good!) or adding green food coloring to the pistachio frosting, or maybe shaping the whole thing like a frog. Ideas need a portal to come through, that portal is the thing already happening. If you want ideas, start doing the thing.

The main reason I draw so often is because I want to keep my channel open. I want to have lots of ideas. I am greedy and I like to find lost ideas tucked into the couch. That happened with my last post. I had written the title and first two sentences only, saved it and moved on. I had no memory of doing that, a stray thought that came into my head, probably while doing the dishes, but I quickly captured it because that’s another thing about ideas, they have a very short life span unless you plant them. They waft in on the wind and they will waft out just as quickly unless you write them down, or draw them out, or in some way place them in the world of action.

I have to go draw now.

10 thoughts on “Do Ideas Come First or Second?

      1. I look for every day sights, occurrences, conversations, etc., that maybe I could twist into a post. I try to carry a pen with me to jot down what I see or hear. And then I keep a file of incidents from my past for when the daily well runs dry. I did a good 25 years of Christmas newsletters before I ever blogged. So I skimmed them all for ideas. They are just longer Blogs. The advantage of being old is that I have over 70 years of memories that span quite a bit of history.

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      2. You should write about Christmas newsletters as longform blogs, or predigital, annual blogs. That’s a funny take, and of course I can see how it’s true. And if you’ve already done it, then I’m sorry for not knowing! Thanks for sharing the details Geoff. It’s interesting to me.


  1. I agree about ideas being the result of actions. When I get into the habit of writing regularly, the ideas come more often than when I’m taking a break from writing. I’m actively thinking of the story while writing, then the story might simmer in a back burner of my brain while I’m doing another activity (like my day job). Now and then, ideas pop out of that back burner and into my consciousness. Maybe that’s it, or maybe I’m off the mark.

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  2. I never really understood where ideas come from until I started blogging. Once in a blue moon I will get an idea when I’m taking a shower or washing the dishes. But the majority of my ideas come when I’m already typing something. If I start typing 1 post, it leads to 3 drafts! If I just think about a post, surprise, nothing happens.

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