Let your ideas ripen

Over the past week I read Scott H. Young’s new book, Get Better at Anything. This book is about various strategies for learning and improving and, well, getting better at anything (I’ll be talking about several tips in upcoming Before Breakfast podcast episodes).

Anyway, one I’ve been pondering lately is to let your ideas ripen.

History is full of things that are good ideas…they just aren’t usable right now. Leonardo da Vinci came up with various concepts that were “ahead of their time” — promising ideas that needed more modern refinements to be usable in their modern form. Aztec children played with toys with wheels but wheels were less useful for transport without the right kinds of animals to pull carts, so the Aztecs didn’t explore all the possibilities. It feels like the steam engine could have been invented and adopted earlier, but it wasn’t — or at least not in the form that powered the Industrial Revolution.

Productive creative types tend to work on ideas that are usable. Young notes that some even have a special sense for this (avoiding working on problems that are just going to make you bang your head against the wall)…but of course the real breakthroughs will come from being ready to combine ideas with new technologies or conditions when they happen. So it might be wise to come up with the ideas and store them somewhere so they can be used when the time is right. In other words, like a green strawberry on the vine, they just need to ripen.

It’s a fun metaphor, and I’m sure we can think of various examples. That brilliant marketing idea might not work for anything your company is currently selling, but could be perfect for a product that’s launching two years from now. You don’t know what that product is yet…but when the time is right it will be a great combination. Years ago, I wrote a National Novel Writing Month novel about some characters named Juliet, Riley, and Skip, and a school focused on the domestic arts located somewhere on the Jersey shore. The story was terrible. But I saved the manuscript and then when Portfolio asked me about potentially writing a fable, I was able to resurrect the characters and location and Juliet’s School of Possibilities was the result.

I guess the implication is to keep coming up with ideas, and put them somewhere, and review them periodically. Sometimes conditions change, or a new opportunity is presented and the idea will be ripe. Maybe not for all the ideas. But at least for some.

In other news: This week has already featured a lot of kid stuff! Yesterday was the 3rd grade wax museum. My 9-year-old was Albert Einstein, with the full on wig and everything, and he had a good quote about success involving hard work, play, and keeping your mouth shut.

Then today was the 6th grader’s “Genius Hour” expo — she put together a collection of recipes and made a cook book of them. There were two school picnics, and the 14-year-old is off on a class trip today.

Over at Vanderhacks (my new Substack newsletter), this week we covered how you should “Create kits to stay organized,” and how you might be “30 days to finished.” The paywalled post is an analysis of one of my time logs, with a focus on evening hours.

Over at the BOBW Patreon community we’ve been discussing various myths of working parenthood (based on this week’s episode) — that thread is at almost 60 comments now!

And in my sonnet writing project…here’s a sonnet about honeysuckle and summer, called The Herald:

An amble down the path, no thought in mind
when suddenly, the honeysuckle’s scent
is there, familiar, coaxing me to find
the blossoms hidden, vines and where they went.

I breathe in deep and, laden in the sweet,
are summers past, like nectar buried deep —
the hope before oppression in the heat
a breeze, an open window where I sleep

one morning, when the dreams have vanished, gone.
In groggy hours, I’m unsure what’s real,
but all is possibility and dawn,
is waking, and the wonder that I feel

is carried, fleeting whiff upon the wind —
the hope that budding summer will not end.

Photo: Not honeysuckle, but these are blooming now!

2 thoughts on “Let your ideas ripen

  1. In the “not yet” vein, I studied technical writing and did an internship at a small company that developed in-house publishing software (by the way, best internship ever for a technical writer!) Ultimately I worked there for 7 years. But my manager had a good suggestion for job-hunting: don’t look for technical writing or documentation specialist positions. Rather, look for companies that are staffing up in development areas. They never think about the documentation, installation, implementation, training, and support of their project, until they have to. So offer your services before they know they need you. When I moved back to my home city, that’s exactly the approach that landed me another great job.

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