We are told “no” so many times growing up and even into adulthood, that the simple act of saying “yes” to our work can be like pulling teeth. There is an anecdote from the academic world that suggests that toddlers are told the word no 400 times a day (I could not find the study that this came from, so I’ve mentioned this as just an anecdote).
Reading the title of this post alone probably made you sceptical that anything good can come of this investment in your time.
Whether you came up with a little ditty on your walk and recorded it as just a voice note, or you have a piece of music that’s just about finished and ready to share with the world, treat all your ideas like they are masterpieces.
It might seem counterintuitive to do this. Because remember we are told “no” so many times. And when you look at the news, you are reminded that the world is simply hopeless. That is another form of no. Well this technique is your opportunity to reverse that way of thinking.
Let’s start with the voice note for a second. You came up with a little idea on a walk, and by the time you got home it was recorded in some form. By today’s standards this might not seem that spectacular, besides even my old cellphone from the 00s that had an actual number pad could do that.
But by 1940s standards, how does that seem? Well in that era, being able to talk into a wristwatch was purely science fiction (Dick Tracey). So to walk around and record little songs on a device that has enough power for a day or days on end is pretty remarkable.
Now let’s go back in time a bit more. The Roman Empire. The closest thing to a computer back then was an abacus. By Roman standards, this whole thing of coming up with song ideas on your walk and recording it into your phone is beyond science fiction. It’s unimaginable! And don’t forget that you could send that song idea to your friend to see if they’re able to work with it, and there are now apps that let people jam in real time.
So you say, “well it’s just a silly song idea, doesn’t mean it’s any good”. Yet this is a decisive moment in the whole process. The critical mind takes hold and shuts the project down right then and there.
The open mind will review that little song memo and it will see potential in it. It will take it over to the guitar or piano and work on it a bit more. It might put a beat behind it in GarageBand or Ableton.
And if the piece is finished you can celebrate that you were able to do this work that builds on previous pieces. That you are still at it, track after track, chapter after chapter. That you thought you were running out of ideas and for some reason new ones just keep coming to you.
How about ideas that you came up with on pen and paper? A short story or a set of lyrics. Almost no technology involved in this case. Romans had pen and paper you remind me. This is the most exciting time to rejoice.
At this point it’s a celebration of your life. That you have gone through everything you’ve gone through, you’ve synthesized all these lessons, and you sat in the chair and you found a way to pull these words onto the page. Nothing short of mazel tov is in order!
It’s this ability to see your ideas as nothing short of a miracle that will keep rolling the ball down the hill, rather than making you push it up. In your job or in your family life people can tell you no all the time. Everyone’s protecting their time and their money. In your own creative work however, this is not the time to be stingy with good vibes. Don’t let the negative bias found in the outside world, in.
I’m not suggesting that you need to adopt an inflated view of yourself, and to literally go around telling everyone that all your ideas are masterpieces. I am however suggesting that you be receptive to the ideas that are taking shape in your work and treat those with a great deal of gratitude. And to do that requires a state of mind that says “yes” rather than “no”.
Make this pact with yourself that every idea that you come up with, big or small, is a masterpiece and I want you to carry this energy with you throughout the process, all the way to sharing it with the world and receiving feedback. Some people may love what you’ve done, and others may be lukewarm about it, but that doesn’t matter if you’re thankful for the act of being able to create and enthusiastic about what’s coming next.