The surprising truth about making ideas happen

Part of what can often hinder our ability to think creatively is our accepted ignorance about how the world around us works.

When we think about technology, art, business, education, or how the world came to be what it is today, we blindly accept a certain amount of unknowns. This is what statisticians refer to as the black swan affect.

For example, if you’re not a writer yourself, whenever you talk about how a best selling author wrote her book you’re likely going to say that she “simply did it.” Or if you have never started a business and you’re asked how a serial entrepreneur takes an idea and turns it into a business, your response is going to be more or less: “they just did.”

The same goes for much of how the world around us works too. Do you know how the energy that powers your computer or phone gets to your house, let alone city? What about how your phone works at all? How are pencils made, or paintbrushes? How does someone go from being a general unknown entertainer to a YouTube star?

We accept these unknowns for much our lives, because trying to understand each of the nuances would be immensely time consuming. And life as we know it works just fine without us having to learn how everything works.

This accepted ignorance leaves us free to focus on other endeavors, but it also comes at the cost of us feeling unnecessarily restricted.

In other words…

If you want to write a best selling book but have never written anything before, how do you go about it? If you want to become a local artist or musician, what’s the way to make that happen? Or if you have an idea for a product you want to turn into a reality and sell on store shelves, how do you go about doing that?

Whenever we face circumstances where questions like these pop into our minds, we tend to feel overwhelmed, unable to take action.

Our accepted ignorance means we’re likely to fall into the trap of thinking that we simply aren’t the type of person who does those things.

If you’ve never written a day in your life, you’re less likely to be a best selling author, as an example. Or so we believe.

Interestingly enough, the process that experienced creatives use in their work is the exact same one a beginner would use.

What an established author does in order to write a new book is the same process a new writer would use. The same workflow an expert inventor uses to take an idea and turn it into a tangible product is the exact same one a novice would use.

The process always begins with curiosity, asking a lot of questions.

The difference between the veteran and the novice is, of course, the score of questions being asked. But the questions are often very similar.

A new writer would likely ask questions around what to write, how to best write it, what conflict the characters in the story would face, and how to get that writing out into the world.

An experienced writer must, naturally, ask the same questions: what to write, how to write it, and what path the story should take.

The truth is that we’re all making this up as we go. While there are certainly best practices and things that work well for any venture, the truth is that the process of taking an idea and turning it into something more than just an idea is often always the same; it begins with a curiosity and questions.

We’re all just making it up as we go.

As John Cleese explains: nobody has any idea at first.

Being uncertain of how to move an idea forward isn’t a sign of incapability, it’s a natural part of the process.

To make ideas happen requires leaping into the unknown. This is true for everyone, both experienced and otherwise.

Of course, it’s best to remember that everything is easier once you start.