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Inspiration IdeaRemember that great idea you had? The one that felt so fresh, so clean, so bleeding marvelous that it sprouted tiny butterflies and the cast of Disney on Ice came by to sing the theme?

The one you put off until you finished whatever you were doing? The one that you tried getting back to, only to discover that it was marvelous – a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away?

Inspiration has a best before date. Pass it and it’s gone, burnt out on imagining instead of doing. You can still see your idea, but you can no longer feel it the same way.

We need to do things while we’re passionate about them. For some people that means working on the same thing over and over and over again (have you ever heard a 15-year-old who dreams of being a rock star?). Their inspiration is the doing and the doing keeps their inspiration alive. They keep fueled up until they hit a plateau and have to struggle through the doldrums. Then they discover that they need a different inspiration. Some of them find it and manage to continue, some of them fail and flunk out.

But some of us, we put our inspiration on the shelf. We think that it’s a great idea, but we need to finish this work assignment, mow the lawn, do the dishes and oh, my isn’t it late now? We put it on hold.

And inspiration can stay on hold – for a time. Get a great enough idea and it will keep bouncing back to you, disturbing you at the most inopportune times with its presence. But if you push it back it will eventually wither and die.

Don’t let it go that far. Seize inspiration when you find it.

That great design? Take it for a ride. Even if you’re in the middle of another project right now. Even if you’ve got stuff to do. Even if you don’t have the time. Especially if you don’t have the time.

Figure out what the minimum effort you need to input in order to test it is. Often it’s quite a lot less than you think. Got a CCG to finally beat out Magic the Gathering for the top spot? You don’t need 10 000 cards to try it out. You don’t need 1 000 or 100. Figure out what’s new and different in your idea and roll with it. Write it down, create the cards you need to test it and test it. Don’t let it clutter up your mind. Try it. Now.

Power Grid/Carcassonne smashup imagePerhaps the act of writing those cards will be enough. Perhaps all you need is the board from Power Grid, a set of blocks from Hammer of the Scots and the bell from Pit and you can wing the rest. Perhaps you need to run around your house, waving your arms and shouting sonnets. It’s all right. Do what you need to do to get your mind in order. Use that inspiration. Create something.

Because when you’re inspired you work faster, harder, and more efficiently than at any other time. You will be able to write down that great game idea, make the prototype and playtest it before bedtime. You’ll be able to write that story, paint that picture, hang that darn shelf that’s been standing in the garage for two years and have energy to spare. Better, you’ll have energy to spend on other projects.

For inspiration is contagious. If you use it it will grow. Follow it and you’ll be inspired more often. Feed it and nourish it and give it the time it deserves and you’ll be able to do more in your other time.

Yeah, that’s a lot of platitudes. Nice words. Safe. Shallow. Whoever has heard of someone recommending you not to follow your inspiration?

So why don’t we do it more often? Why don’t we run with that thought that has or mind on fire? Propriety? Fear?

Take your pick. Me, I’m down with feeding my inspiration. And with any luck it will grow up to be a monster.

Dreams of Futures Past Book Cover

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