The Big Idea

The big idea. The inspiration. The epiphany. Where does it come from? How do you get it? Some might describe it as a light bulb going off over your head. Some may describe it as a being struck by lightening. Do only creative people get it? Who is a “creative person” anyways? 

I have been asked how I come up with my ideas from how to remodel a space to dinner on a week night. When I post about my process, projects, or their outcomes it can quickly be dismissed as well he’s “creative” or “of corse he did, he always does”. Here’s the secret… It’s just as hard for me to come up with the idea as it is other people. It’s no different. What’s different is when the ideas come along, what I do with them, and how I process the information. It’s not like I have a bottomless goodie bag of ideas. I have to work to find them too. Where I veer off from where others may go is taking that idea when it comes and first acknowledging it and then secondly attaching it to others I have had, the knowledge I have accumulated, and the experiences I have had.

Take my master suite remodel. It wasn’t like I had training in architecture or design. It wasn’t like I had some secret skill. Well, OK, I knew how to use photoshop and I understand how to draw something to scale on graph paper. So it started with measuring the existing space, every single wall, door, and window and marking it out on a piece of paper. Then I put all that in to photoshop in a cm = ft scale. That gave me the chance to see the space as just an outline. I then measured our bed and transferred in those measurements. I kept doing this through each piece I knew I wanted in the space. I then played around with the space ensuring I had the space that was needed. It wasn’t like I was just like “hey! I know, why don’t we make a giant shower!” only to find out it doesn’t fit (it did by the way because I measured everything).

The important thing is to let an idea evolve. An idea should never be stagnant. Take Christmas decorating. I bought our artificial tree when we lived in an apartment several years ago. I knew where it was going to go and what was going to go on it. Then I got an idea to add to it year after  year. Each year a little more and more unique. This idea was because I spent all my money on the tree and the basic decorations I couldn’t afford the decorations I wanted for the tree. Instead I thought wouldn’t that make a fun tradition to keep adding to it year after year. Creating a history, a memory, a story. Then one year I invest in the fake garland. Then we moved and the stuff didn’t fit the same. So it was arranging it in a new space and learning I needed more. Then we moved and I wanted to tie the colors in by room theme. Over the years we have lived in this house the main floor has changed and evolved making my tree move from place to place each year. Allowing it to evolve keeps me engaged in the creative process of getting it all up to enjoy and keeps it new and exciting for me even though the core of what’s being used is the same stuff I have had for years.

Ideas come from experience and knowledge. Take cooking dinner for example. It’s only because I take lot of notes while cooking, reading cookbooks, watching food documentaries, and organizing my recipes that I am able to walk through a farmers market and see Sunchokes and buy a huge heap of them. I have never worked with them but the book and shows I enjoy have been singing their praises lately so I knew I would find something to do with them. Being able to see what’s new and fresh at the farmers market and how to use it takes time and a lot of experimentation. It’s not like I have this epiphany and instantly know I can make a Sunchoke Chestnut Soup. It’s more about seeing them and feeing inspired. Remembering Vivian Howard was just singing their praises on a recent episode of A Chef’s Life on PBS I knew I had to get them.

Lastly I would have to say you have to be willing to fail. Be excited about the experiment and not fixated on demanding a successful outcome. If you can learn to enjoy the process of working through your ideas more will come. If you insist that every idea works and works perfectly you’ll stop acknowledging them not wanting to fail. Some times the best discoveries come from either failure or mistakes.

Whether you’re decorating your home, making dinner for company, hosting a holiday meal for family, or starting a blog you have to just take you idea and work with it. Let it evolve, take notes, and keep trying. You may even end p far from your idea and in a place that’s even better!

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