Preserving inspiration

in·spi·ra·tion (noun):

  1. The process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, esp. to do something creative: “flashes of inspiration”.
  2. The quality of having been so stimulated, esp. when evident in something: “a moment of inspiration in an otherwise dull display”.

One of the very first posts I ever did was a review about Trello. Six months later, I thought I’d check back in about how I’m using it, and the largest single use that I have for Trello is in its ability to preserve inspiration.

Even more than a developer, I am an ideas guy. I constantly look up from whatever I’m doing to say things like, “wouldn’t it be cool if x existed,” or, “I should make y.” Then I get distracted by the task at hand, and the idea gets lost. So, I’ve started writing them all down, no matter how trivial they might seem. I have a Trello board that I call the “little black book of ideas” that holds these creative thoughts so that I can retrieve them later.

I’ll admit it: not everything that makes it into the little black book is a great idea. They’re not even all good ideas. But I copy them down anyway, even if only so that I have a digital paper trail of what’s been on my mind, and then I filter through them occasionally and move all the dead weight to the Rejected list. It’s like a little graveyard of crappy ideas.

From the ideas that survive after culling, I’ve noticed something interesting: almost all of them have been implemented in some way before. Sometimes they’ve even been implemented well. But in the overwhelming majority of cases where prior art exists, I’ve added the concept to the board for one of two reasons:

a) the existing implementation lacks some crucial feature that would make it completely awesome, or
b) an implementation done “my way” would focus on a specific problem that is a subset of the issues that the existing implementation addresses

I interpret that to mean that “good ideas,” or at least survivable ideas, don’t have to be completely unique. They just have to either add significant value to an existing solution, or focus on one aspect of a problem set and solve it well. When I think about it that way, it doesn’t seem so daunting; after all, part of my job description is being innovative and solving existing problems in new and interesting ways.

One thought on “Preserving inspiration

  1. Nice post – I’m using it for the same thing these days more or less. Whenever I start a new project, I have the typical todo/doing/done setup, but my first two columns are ‘inspiration’ & ‘firm ideas’. It’s kind of cool to see the progression from random thought to an actual dev. task. Then, whenever it’s time to release, I can just archive the done column and start over — w/out losing all ‘cache of inspiration’. Good to see other people on the same page.

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