Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Ideas: The Hallmarks of a Good Idea

It seems only proper, after encouraging you to distrust your first idea, that we should look into the question of how you know you have a good idea.

Of course, it's not possible to be certain you have a good idea until you test it on others. If it were, we'd have institutions that follow the model of drug companies devoted to finding and exploiting as many good ideas as possible. So the good news is that no one has a monopoly on good ideas. The bad news is that the best we can do is find heuristics to help us sort the good ideas out from the bad.

One of the best heuristics I've found is that good ideas have a longer shelf life or more staying power than mediocre ideas.

I once heard of a couple who didn't buy anything until they'd talked about needing it at least three times.

Similarly, if an idea comes back to you at least three times you may be on to something.

But by, "comes back to you," I mean something more than simply remembering the idea. When John Brown talks about creativity, he emphasizes, "zing." That's John's way of saying the idea gives you an electric shimmer along your spine each time you savor it.

Good ideas are the ones that still deliver that zing when you come back to them the third or fourth time.

Deren Hansen is the author of the Dunlith Hill Writers Guides. This article is from Sustainable Creativity: How to Enjoy a Committed, Long-term Relationship with your Muse. Learn more at

Image: Simon Howden /

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