Good ideas can astonish us with their simple brilliance. I admire whoever thought to call used cars “pre-owned.” A little wording shift changes everything!
But coming up with good ideas can be a tricky process. In general, as I’ve tried to come up with ideas for my podcasts, blog posts, articles, and books, I’ve realized two things:
1. The best way to get good ideas is to generate lots of ideas. For an every-weekday-morning podcast, if I generate 40 ideas per month, I can choose the best 20 to execute. Aiming for a high number means I’m not editing myself in the idea generation phase. Maybe an idea will fly, maybe it won’t, but why not write it down?
2. First ideas are rarely the best ideas. Any long project goes through a trough of despair at some point. But if you give yourself space to keep mulling something over, you will come up with new solutions. Often, the best gift you can give yourself is time.
This last realization is truly life-changing. When I’m editing a book manuscript, I can realize that even if I am really unhappy with a chapter, and have no idea how to fix it, that won’t be the case a week from now. If I give myself a week to think about it and try new things, I will come up with a solution. Even if I have no idea now what that solution will be! Leave space to mull it over.
I’ve been thinking of this lately with something that is not writing related at all. My older boys have shared a bedroom since their little brother was born 4.5 years ago. They are not thrilled about this. There are both temperament and sleep-need reasons to separate them. However, other configurations of room-sharing aren’t great either. My daughter could share a room with her little brother for a year or two, but as everyone enters the tween/teen years, this is not going to be a long-term solution. The 9-year-old and 4-year-old could theoretically share (that was the original idea), but the 4-year-old snores, and still wakes up early. The 9-year-old needs more, not less, protected space for sleep.
So then it became a question of how to add more space. I don’t really want to move, which would be the most expensive and time-consuming option. So then I got the idea that we could finish the attic and create a bedroom up there. At first blush, this seems reasonable. It’s one of the most popular renovations (as in most people who do it are happy they did it). The attic is large enough to meet code requirements and we already have a legal staircase (though the windows would need to be expanded, and putting a bathroom up there would require new permitting as well).
We all talked about this and thought it might work. But nothing needs to be done urgently, and as I was mulling this over, I realized that I really really did not want to supervise another major renovation project.
So I spent more time mulling it over. I walked around the house and rethought things. And eventually it came to me that part of the finished walk-out basement playroom could be repurposed as a bedroom with a much easier fix (there are already windows in a set-off area that would just need a door between it and the main area. Plus a closet!).
Now granted, I haven’t done anything about any of these ideas yet, but the basement idea is much better (as in simpler, cheaper, easier) than the attic one. My first idea was not my best idea. Since there wasn’t an immediate deadline for this, I had space to see that.
When has your first idea not been your best idea? Or maybe sometime it has! Also, I’d love to hear other people’s adventures in room-sharing, and reconfiguring rooms over time.
Photo: Bunk bed that was never used as a bunk bed due to previously mentioned snoring/waking issues