Judging Flawed Thought Babies

I’ve been given a few scalding pieces of criticism that were clearly not fleshed out or well founded: off-the-cuff remarks meant to show evidence of my negative behaviour but on closer inspection couldn’t possibly hold water. That’s not to say I’m absolutely perfect (though I am), but people tend to shape the entire context and series of events in their heads before knowing any details of the reality I personally faced. They judge based on their own gaps of knowledge that they temporarily fill in with their biases.

I find I do the same thing to myself when starting a new creative project. I’ve been working on a plot outline for a new play and every point I write down seems ridiculous. I’m fighting the urge to judge each idea as they come out of my head. It’s tempting to visualize an ideal version of the finished product and then hold each feeble thought up to that imagined light in comparison. But that’s not fair to the process.

There can be a concept in mind for how the project might end up, sure. It’s nice to work toward something. But that visualized final concept needs to be completely flexible: able to contort itself around every new idea. We get nowhere if we are constantly gauging the effectiveness of new thoughts via a nonexistent end goal. It’s an impossible comparison: something brand new and unstable compared to something we have been sitting on for a long time… or that we’ve grown fond of and don’t want to crumble.

But it’s gotta be the other way around. Take the fledgling idea and see how your original intentions for the project might shape around it. Noticing the creases and the overlapping pieces will help you identify gaps in your goals, and that information can help spawn even more new ideas.

I think for me what’s most important at the beginning is to churn out as many little ideas as possible. If I’m comparing these tiny, flawed thought babies to some idealized future that doesn’t yet exist then I’m bound to disappoint myself. But the less judgment I pass on new ideas the more likely something’s going to come along that will surprise me, and possibly even reshape everything in deeply unsettling and exciting ways.

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