The importance of getting ideas out of your head

I believe in the value of getting getting ideas out of your head.

I’ve written about why it’s so important to explore ideas in a tangible way many, many times before.

As we deal with ideas, getting them out of our heads makes them real in a way ruminating on them, even indefinitey, never can. Taking ideas and writing them down, or doodling, or talking about them, or otherwise trying to get them into a more tangible and shareable format does something interesting to both the ideas and our brains: it changes them.

Consider for a moment that everything in the world has to pass to your brain, encased in the seclusion of your skull, via your senses.

New ideas exist solely in the dark.

“Your brain is encased in absolute blackness in the vault of your skull. It doesn’t see anything. All it knows are these little signals, and nothing else. And yet you perseve the world in all shades of brightness and colors. Your brain is in the dark but your mind constructs light.”

That’s a quote from neuroscientist David Eagleman’s stellar book Incognito. In the book David explains the mysterious, almost invisible, processes that affect how we think and behave.

Our brains of course work in patterns of neural activity. Ideas in the brain are impossibly fluid and abstract things. If you’ve ever tried to hold onto an idea in your mind you’re familiar with just how fluid they can be. Here one moment and gone the next. The experience of walking into a room only to immediately forget why.

As our brains go through ideas the connections that “shape” those ideas change, either strengthening or weakening, depending on factors like where we are, where we were, our mood then and our mood now, distractions, and other sensory stimulus.

It’s when we take our ideas and get them out of our heads that they become more concrete, but also that we allow them to evolve in ways they otherwise couldn’t if we left them alone in our brains.

Putting an idea out into the world allows it to exist in a way that makes it evident how it might evolve. Our brains keep working on the idea but its original state exists there in front of us.

You can’t really see the evolution of your ideas unless you’re willing to put them down in front of you; jotting them down as notes or doodles, sharing them with a friend over coffee, or otherwise getting your ideas out of your head.

Perhaps that’s part of why we’re so afraid to start projects. Getting the ideas out puts them in front of us, forces us to face them and their possible weaknesses. Ideas in our heads can be anything, they can be imagined just as perfectly as we want them to be, safe and sound.

But the reality is that while ideas in front of us feel more concrete, they’re no more concrete than the ideas that continue to reside in our minds. We can still evolve them, critique them, edit them, rebuild them.

But we can’t do that effectively until we first get the ideas out of our heads, into the real world where they can breathe and live and grow.