Several times in my career, I’ve seen “my” ideas hit the digital shelves before I could launch ’em.
Workshop titles. Product concepts. Offerings. Articles and posts.
You name it, I’ve probably sworn a blue streak at my computer or phone screen about someone beating me to the punch.
“God damnit,” I whine while thrashing dramatically. “Now I gotta think of something else.”
This isn’t to say those ideas were “stolen” or “taken” from me.
Having an Idea “Swiped” Can Be a Good Thing
With very few exceptions, it’s almost always a matter of parallel thinking (as Liz Gilbert would say). The idea was out there in the ether waiting for a home, and someone else got to it first.
But every time, I’m eventually thankful it happened.
Because every time, it gives me a chance to push, and come up with something even better.
So, next time this happens to you, here’s how to think about it:
First, accept that creativity is an infinite sea of possibility.
Remember that problem from grade school math class, where a seemingly-modest number of pizza size + topping options creates a zillion dinner combos?
(Me neither — but I’m told that’s the gist.)
The same principle applies to creativity.
But there‘s NO LIMIT to your creative combo options. You don’t have to HOPE another idea is out there. It just is, statistically speaking.
Check Your Assumptions — Was it Really “Perfect”?
Second: provided there’s no evidence of foul play, challenge the belief that the “perfect” idea got “stolen” from you.
Much like the seemingly “perfect” hot-and-cold love interest from your early 20’s, who you laugh about now —
— if this idea truly WAS perfect for you, it probably wouldn’t have found its way into another person’s brain pants, you know?
Let it go, babe.
There are plenty more… uh… idea fish in the sea.
Then, put on your little critic hat.
So: another idea is out there, & your original idea wasn’t perfect, ‘cuz nothing ever is.
How to Make Your Next Idea Even Better
Now you dig, explore, and experiment:
What are the strong points you loved AND the weak points you may have ignored?
Can you approach from a different angle? What can you go harder, or gentler on?
And, as you swim with the idea fish in the infinite sea, ask: which options are open to you now, that weren’t before?
OK, enough analysis. Now, let your sense of curiosity and wonder do its work.
Hopefully, you’ve finished wailing like you’ve been robbed by the Idea Hamburgler — because it’s time for the cool part.
Hold the threads you’ve gathered so far gently, and without judgement.
Now…Marinate for a Bit
Move, take in art, do stuff that inspires you, & let your subconscious start to weave them together.
Take as much time as you can for this phase. Ideas aren’t designed to be forced out like the last bit of toothpaste from the tube.
Finally: accept that your new idea probably won’t appear as fully formed as your original one. Not at first.
Sometimes, something will just click — and quickly! Appreciate that, but don’t expect it.
Assemble Your New Idea From What Surfaces
Most often, you’ll be pulling pieces of your new idea out of your mind in thick, salty chunks that you roll together like clay.
“OH!” you’ll think, “THIS bit! And THAT! I’m onto something…”
And steadily, your even better idea will begin to take shape.
And just remember:
When you’re in the habit, or business, of creativity, it’s easy to fall into the trap of perceived stolen ownership — even when you know coincidence more than likely played a part.
But creativity, by the communal nature of its gift, cannot and should not be turned into a tug-of-war for possession.
New ideas are always, always available.
Because creativity is a plunge headfirst into an infinite sea.