Be uncertain of your ideas, but not your purpose

“Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.” – Voltaire

Feeling certain can be a large burden for creative endeavors.

The inventor who goes out in search of what he is confident to be an ideal, perfect machine, is doomed for failure. By being married to his vision of what his invention should be, he doesn’t see the better solution just around the edges.

We can see this problem almost every day. We all settle into ideas because we’re so sure they’ll work, and when they don’t work we keep pushing on them, spending countless hours to try and fit our square peg of an idea into the round hole of a goal.

Instead, our creative process should be the opposite. We shouldn’t be married to ideas, we should instead be married to goals, visions, and purposes.

If your purpose is to create artwork that inspires, creating art using only crayons may not be the best way to go about it. If your vision is to be the best improv actor this side of the globe, you can’t be married to the idea that opening your own theater is the way to get there. This is important because wasting your time on an idea that isn’t working is just that: a waste of time. Pursuing ideas that aren’t right means you’re wasting time that you could otherwise be devoting to the right efforts.

Being married to an idea is an efficient way to waste energy and resources.

It’s natural to pursue certainty, but it’s unnatural to align that certainty to mere ideas. Instead, be open to the fact that your ideas may not be the best, that there may be a better solution waiting for you to discover it. Instead of defining yourself by your ideas, define yourself by your goals and vision.

Creative insights often hide here, just outside where we’re so certain they are.

Illustration copyright Jean Giraud via But does it float.