The Upside of Junky Ideas

I give myself permission to have junky ideas.

Clunkers. Lemons. The kind that smell like sulfur and the kind that are dead on arrival. We’re talking A-level junkiness.

Junky ideas and I are old dance partners. I write each day ergo I write plenty of junk. Junk is part of creative work.

Junk - what’s flat and boring, unoriginal, laughable, or unusable - is what we must typically slosh through to get to the good stuff. It’s like digging a well; you have to shovel a whole lot of dirt to hit water.

But there’s something more important here. Having ideas, even junky ones, means we’re showing up for creative work.

We’re scared straight of looking foolish. Rather than speak up, we zip up our lips. Rather than type that wild-eyed sentence, we drum the top of our desk with our finger tips. We put nothing out for fear that the something we do put out will bomb.

So we don’t participate in the unearthing, reworking, polishing that is creative work. The good stuff we have in us stays in us. And we sit on the sidelines for that life-affirming endeavor of creating.

Don’t be scared of junk. Find safe nooks for junky ideas - places where we won’t be judged and, of equal importance, we will not judge. These are our drafting places: the warm wombs where we start with something, nourish it, attend to it, and birth it into something else before the world. But we can’t get to that something else if we give ourselves nothing to start from.

Bring on the junky ideas, I say. Befriend the junky ideas. Even love the junky ideas, if we can. Not because they’re a portal to the good stuff. But because they are evidence we are participating in the untidy, unparalleled work of creating.

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