Are You Playing the Waiting Game?

Lean into action in spite of your doubts. It’s unreasonable to expect perfect clarity in advance. A fuzzy idea is good enough.

Ideas don’t normally become crystal clear when you’re standing still and pondering them. In fact, they rarely become crystal clear even after you’ve implemented them.

When I get an idea for a new article, it’s usually quite fuzzy. All I have is an idea for a piece of an article, like the beginning of it, a point I want to make, or maybe a story to share. I don’t know what the completed article will include, how long it will be, how long it will take to write, or how it will end. I don’t get any of that up front.

But all I need is a tiny idea about a puny little piece of it, and that’s enough to start writing. Once I’ve written that piece, I get an idea for the next piece, maybe just the next sentence or next paragraph. So I write that. And soon I’m in the flow of writing, and the article basically writes itself.

I often don’t even have clarity about that first tiny piece. But that’s okay. I just need to feel an impulse that it might be interesting to explore. I may still feel uncertain as to whether it’s going to work.

So all I require is the tiniest little seed, and I can plant it and water it and see what it grows into. Maybe it will be beautiful. Maybe it will be hideous. Maybe it will be somewhere in the middle. The outcome doesn’t matter. If I just keep doing this often enough, I’ll create work all across the spectrum. And it seems reasonable to believe that the beautiful output will do more good than the hideous stuff does harm, especially since I can learn and improve from all of it.

But none of this concerns me when I write. It’s nice when an article comes out well, but I write because I like writing. It’s a very selfish thing to do.

When an article feels done enough, I give it an editing pass and click Publish. This is to inject that piece of creativity into the world and see what happens to it. I’m curious to see the ongoing ripples it creates, like watching the after-effect of a pebble tossed into a lake.

This article began with the seed of the first paragraph, which was really just a quickie status update on Twitter that I posted. Then I was going to share it on Google+ and add a bit more to it (since Google+ permits more than 140 characters). As I began doing that, I figured I might as well turn it into a short little blog post, so it could produce more ripples. Dozens of articles I’ve written have started out this way, including some that are 5000+ words.

Even after I publish an article, I still don’t have perfect clarity about it. Maybe parts of it are ambiguous or subject to interpretation. Perhaps my points will be misunderstood. That happens often. But so what? It’s still fun to create.

If you’re waiting for clarity before you get moving into action, you’re being very silly. That kind of clarity isn’t going to come, and even if it did, it may be wrong anyway.

The best you can normally hope for is a tiny little piece of what may or may not be a good idea. You won’t know if it’s a decent idea until much later. In fact, even when you implement it, you probably still won’t be quite sure. You may look back on your idea even after it’s released into the wild and sort of wonder, “I dunno. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but now I’m not so sure.”

And that’s beautiful. Inject your creativity into the world, and see what becomes of it. Watch it weave itself into the tapestry of others’ lives. Enjoy the mystery of it. Be unsure and take action anyway.

What if you make a mistake? Seriously… who cares? If you avoid mistakes, you avoid learning and growing. Mistakes are nothing to fret over. Rack them up and be proud of them.

But don’t stand around moping, “I dunno what to do… I’m just not sure…” unless you want all of your tomorrows to look like your yesterdays.