THE BLOG

Creative Ideas Need to Be Nurtured

12/02/2013 12:36 EST | Updated 02/01/2014 05:59 EST

Ideas start off as gut feelings and flashbulb moments. They start unformed. Barely visible flickers. Once they are formed, they are like premature babies; they need incubation and respirators to survive on their own.

2013-12-01-download1.jpg

My daughter Laurel was born three months premature. Twenty-four years ago, this 890-gram flicker of an idea was born at St. Joe's Hospital in London, Ontario.

She was so small she fit in the palm of my hand, and we didn't expect her to survive.

She came early and incomplete or still developing, and our job was to do everything we could to protect her and help her thrive.

I teach my writing students it's the same with new ideas. They need to be held in sacred hands. They need incubation. They need good wishes and time to be able to learn to breathe on their own.

Like premature babies, ideas come with doubt -- the doubt if they will make it.

Laurel was not perfectly formed, so showing her off to people who would nay-say, worry or prescribe the wrong solutions was not helpful. Some folks sent get well cards instead of congratulation on the birth of your baby cards. Although they meant well, I needed to be surrounded by folks with faith in her process. I had a hard enough time battling my own doubt let alone theirs.

Protecting baby ideas from naysayers is the same process.

Some time after Laurel was sent home from the hospital (thanks to the support of some really amazing people), I began writing my first full-length play at the Tarragon Playwright's Unit. Every week we met and my work was nurtured and fed.

Half-way through the year, the theatre said they wanted to present my play at a public reading.

The process went something like this: I wrote all morning and in the afternoon handed my scripts to the actors, and then that night we read in front of an audience. Audiences were told this was only a reading, that the process was for the writer not the audience. But some people (usually the most vocal) focused on details that had nothing to do with the writing. Like the accent of the actress or her inappropriate yoga pants.

What I learned from that experience was that I needed to share my sacred ideas with folks who were talking about writing. Folks who understood the writing process. Folks who would listen not prescribe quick solutions. Who would hold the idea in the palm of their hand and help me realize its potential (while I sucked my thumb in the corner).

Yes, feedback is needed but feedback given too early (by well-meaning spouses or worrywart parents) will cause you to shy away from the heat of the idea.

Feedback given too early will have you rethink and remove the most original part of the concept.

Even thumbs-up feedback, too early on, will cause you to start playing to the compliment.

New ideas are about gut feelings, intuitive and mysterious processes.

Laurel had a year of false starts until we could breathe deeply and say she was fine. My play took about the same time -- a year long tribunal. Both were held sacred until they were strong enough to walk out into the world on their own.

So don't rush the process, let your ideas grow and take your time.