When that spark of inspiration hits it’s like nothing else.

Sometimes it comes in the form of an idea. Not a complete execution, but an idea strong enough that it can be applied to whatever job we’re working on at the time.

What if… What if the job we’re working on at the time is only small? What if using up this idea, so original and brilliant, on such an insignificant job would be wasteful? Not allowing the brilliance of our idea to really stand upon a stage it deserves?

I know this is the kind of thing that has haunted me in the past. I’ve been so proud and in love with an idea that I became overly protective of it.

I’ve had ideas of how to execute strong type lockups, ingenious navigation, the perfect balance of design elements and image.

The design should come from the content. We all know this, but it doesn’t stop us from having small combinations of elements that we are charmed by and almost lust to see used, and used where they’ll be best on display.

But we hold off. Often we wait until we have a job that holds up to our standards, one worthy of out genius little idea.

I say fooey.

That genius little idea should be given form as soon as it possibly can be.

Use Your Sketchbook

At the very least the idea should go into your sketchbook.

Worse than hoarding an idea is forgetting an idea. So get it down on paper as soon as you can.

Besides eliminating the possibility of losing it to the ether, it will give you a better view of it.

It might seem perfect in your head, but that perfection might not translate well to paper, which means it probably wouldn’t translate well to pixels.

Getting it on paper means refining it now while it’s fresh and exciting, rather once it’s half forgotten and easy to dismiss.

Buy One, Get Two Free!

Getting these ideas into your book has another benefit – it generates more ideas.

By keeping a record of it in a safe place, your mind is freed from holding onto it.

A big part of GTD is getting absolutely everything out of your head and into your system.

Anyone who has done this can testify to how freeing it is. A weight is lifted from your shoulders and all that had to be done seems manageable.

The same is true for creative ideas. Put them on paper, free the space in your mind, and feel two new ideas replace it.

It teaches your mind to continuously source them out, and it will continue to do so as it knows they will? be put into a safe place.

Unused Ideas Are Worthless.

A bad idea executed is far more valuable than a bad idea forever ignored.

Having a book filled with cleverness is great, but only if that cleverness is able to prove its worth.

So use your ideas up. Use them over and over, refining them as you go.

The first time you use one, it’ll be good. But if you look at how it was used and executed and how it succeeded and at what it failed, you’ll be able to refine it.

Waiting for the “perfect job” to use your great ideas would then be a waste because the idea wouldn’t have had an opportunity to mature at what you might think of as small or meaningless or insignificant or unworthy jobs.

They Might Come Back To You

The nature of creative work is that it can be infectious.

We make something, show it to a friend or coworker, put it online, and a suggestion comes back. Not always a correction or a “it should be done this way”, but a response – a continuation of a conversations that we start with our work.

Sometimes what will come back to you will help you push and develop the idea further.

I never tire of presenting something and have a book recommendation come back, or another designer’s name, historical or contemporary, float through the discussion. Or sometimes even a very direct and succinct suggestion for changes that make my work stronger.

It’s lovely. But it doesn’t happen unless our work, especially those special ideas we love so dearly that we might hide them away, is published and out in the world.

So take you ideas and write them down. Give them shape and definition, fill the gaps, and then use them as soon as you can, making sure to refine them, smoothing out their rough edges.

Once they’re out in the wild they’ll develop worth. Stuck in your book, or worse,slowly fading from your mind, is the worst thing you could do to something that could be clever or special.