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12 Ways to Know When It’s Okay to Toss an Idea

Bad ideas happen to good people. #fact. We all have clunkers, even sometimes more than we’d like.

But how do you know for sure when a good idea actually is a good idea, and not just a clunker wrapped up in excitement and hope?

Here’s a quick list of questions to ask yourself when you’re brainstorming new things to make:

1. What’s your goal for creating this?

Why do you make what you make? Do you do it for your own mental health? Is it your business? Do you love it? Are you trying to make something super specific happen? Ask yourself whether or not your art aligns with the whole point of making it. If it does, make the thing.

2. Does it align with a short term goal?

Maybe you’re looking to grow your email list X% by the end of the month. Perhaps you’re preparing for a specific event. Ask yourself it your art aligns with an important short term goal you’ve made. It does, make the thing.

3. Does it align with a long term goal?

Maybe this big idea you have will help you reach an even grander goal — one that you’ve been working towards for years, although it’s admittedly taking a while. Will this piece of work get you closer? Yeah? Ok, make the thing.

4. Does it seem like it would fit another project entirely?

What about a great idea that doesn’t exactly fit into long term or short term goal completion? Maybe it’s one of those interesting outlier ideas that you’re not sure where to put. If it seems like it would be an idea for a completely new project, don’t make the thing… yet. Keep it. Grab your notebook or laptop and write down everything you’re dreaming for it, then set it aside for a rainy day.  You might have a new project in the future that would benefit from this idea.

How do you know when an idea is a good one? Or when it's better off in the garbage can? Click to learn the difference between your best ideas and your "Meh,"-est ideas! | Blog.patreon.com

5. Was it your very first idea?

Was this the first thing that came to you? Usually, not always, but usually, the very first impulse that comes to us is not our best, most refined idea. Great art usually takes a lot of hard work, re-working, re-writing, arranging, trying, error-ing, mistake making, and re-inventing. If it was your first idea, sit on it for a little while. Tweak it. Play with it. You just might come up with something better.

6. Does it seem ok-but-not-amazing-but-maybe?

If you’re “Meh,” about this idea altogether, do yourself a favor and toss it. Don’t resign yourself to mediocre art. It will kill your career, and suck out your soul through a fat, grey, unremarkable straw.

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7. Can you already see a beginning, middle, and end, outlined?

If you have an idea where you can already visualize the entirety of the thing, that’s a good sign. When you can picture your idea from start to finish, it’s the mark of a solid concept. Keep in mind — does it fit into your current project? Yes? And can you visualize the entire, finished product? Yes? You’ve got a keeper!

How do you know when an idea is a good one? Or when it's better off in the garbage can? Click to learn the difference between your best ideas and your "Meh,"-est ideas! | Blog.patreon.com

8. Is it directed at who you’re creating for?

When running a business, creative or otherwise, you make work that’s going to appeal to your audience, AKA your market. Does this idea seem like something your target audience would be interested in? If yes, keep it. If no, toss it. If maybe, ask them. Post a question to your social media or on your Patron only feed and see what they think!

9. Have you been working on it for a really long time?

Is this idea something you’ve been living with forever? Perhaps you’ve been tweaking it over and over again and it’s not quite where you want it to be yet? If you’re just plain sick of this idea, then set it aside for now. Leave it. Only come back to it when you have the energy to pick it up again. Remember that there’s no such thing as perfect art and cut yourself some slack. Have a cookie.

10. Are you no longer excited by it?

If you’re just plain over it, put it away. Throw it away, even. Give yourself a break. It’s time to move on to something new!

11. Have other people in your niche told you it’s bad?

Ouch. Bummer. Take it with a grain of salt, but do consider who this is coming from. Do you respect the person that told you this? Do you truly believe they have your best interests at heart? Do they know their shit? Take all this into account before deciding for yourself whether you’ll toss the idea or follow through with it.

12. Does even your mom not like it?

Yeah. Might wanna toss it.

Tossing ideas vs. saving them for later:

I’m a huuuge, YUGE (Trump voice) proponent of keeping bad ideas for later. I’m a sensitive hoarder by nature — I never want to throw away an opportunity for a great project just because I might think it’s bad today.

Things change. Times change. People change. If you don’t want to throw everything away, consider keeping a Book of Bad Ideas. Or just a Book of Ideas. Write them down and save them for potential future use.

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