Live and Let Die : A Creative Discussion #4 Wrap-up

This month’s Creative Discussion tackled the topic of deciding when it is time to let an idea die. It was a lively dialog from the very beginning and it generated some fantastic ideas. There was also a bit of discussion on the language of the query as well, and whether or not ‘die’ was too harsh a term.

True, ‘die’ is a harsh term, it evokes a visceral response and that is why I used it. Because the idea of letting a creative idea die should be something that effects us viscerally. It should never be easy…


In some productivity oriented schools of thought, there are those who believe that whenever we have an idea it stays in our heads clinging to the back of our minds. Never giving us rest from the idea until we have seen it through or let the idea go. So it was swimming through this school that brought on this discussion, and we called on the community to share their thoughts on this demise.

Never Say Die

Though the whole idea behind the post, was determining when it is time to let go, there were some who do not believe that there is ever an occasion when throwing in the towel is the answer. They do not think that surrendering the idea is ever the right course of action for a creative mind to take.

Andrew Gerber – …There is no need to say die. If an idea doesn’t work know the most important thing for you is to make a deep analysis and realize what is going wrong. Don’t stop doing the analysis of mistakes. Correct your mistakes and you will see that any idea can work.

Alberto Pichardo – An idea as it is never dies i mean theres times when im just playing with PS or ILL and sometimes brilliant ideas comes to me and seems wonderfull at first, but then it just evolve into something else, it could go to both ways, it can change ur first idea completly or modifiying the current, so im not sure if theres a time when you can say “now is the time to quit” cause at lest on my case ive never found me saying ok thats it for this idea

Take Time With A Wounded Hand

Flying back towards our topic with some help from the Stone Temple Pilots, one of the more popular ideas that was discussed was all about taking time away from the idea. Stepping back from a project whenever we feel like we are going nowhere with it can prove to be the key in deciding whether or not we will ever be able to fully make the idea work. Otherwise we end up forcing the idea and settling on a finished product that does not meet the full potential the project once had. So take time and come back with a refreshed and renewed perspective before condemning the idea to die.

chunkydesign – When you look at what you´re doing, and you think it is bad, and you no longer feel any kind of will to keep on working that idea, it may be the time to let it die. But, I think, that before letting it die, the best is to give it a rest. When you´re too involved with your work, you´ll be the worst person to judge it, so step back from it. For a few hours, days, weeks, whatever… Go work on something else, and when you´ll come back to it, you´ll probably have a better perspective of what can be done to make it work. If you still feel the same way than before, then just put it on your archive of failed projects.

Jeff – I see your quote and raise you another quote, “Do, or do not. There is no try.” -Yoda :)

But seriously, I agree with what chunkydesign said above. Step away from it for a while and come back, you may not be in the right frame of mind to take it to the level it could become.

Sometimes it’s as simple as a walk or a hot shower to the right music or complete silence. If none of that works, Kill It!

I Like To Steal

…Not literally, but it went with the lyrics from the first header, so we ran with it. Besides it does work when you think about taking pieces of the idea that you cannot see through and letting them be worked into other projects. Stealing elements that we are too fond of to ever let fall by the wayside, and incorporating them elsewhere, seems to be a bit of a time honored tradition among creatives. So before you toss an idea aside, make sure that you have salvaged any parts that still send sparks shooting through you.

Kate – I think the main thing I try to keep in mind is to understand when to let go and move in another direction. Don’t be charmed by the initial “oh this will be cool” feeling if you have put serious effort and it is still weak. It is easy to hang on too tightly to a style/element/overall concept and drive it into the ground just because you thought it was going to be cool. Make sure you get regular feedback, and don’t be afraid of criticism. Accept your failures and learn from them. Maybe that idea that needs to “die” will be reincarnated into something else. If not, then at least you have gone through the mental exercise of playing with it and learning something from it.

Jason Garrison – …Even when I feel like I’ve hit a brick wall, I take elements of my original idea into another draft. Creativity is a fluid process, not with stops and starts but with plateaus. The starting levels build a foundation for the peak.

Give It Away, Give It Away, Give It Away, Now!

Changing gears to a more Chili Pepper kind of place, another popular idea that surfaced from the discussion was to give the idea away to someone else to try and make it flourish. An awesome and inspirational suggestion that really feeds that sense of community which drives many creative people. This way, there is no true death for an idea, it is simply passed on to the next architect of its evolution. For many, the thought of handing over any creative idea is a hard one, but it is certainly one with merit that can allow the idea to soar to heights from which you were holding it back. So before you give up, give away.

Brandon Cox – I think you let it die when you realize you’re already trying to cultivate one too many, therefore you know that going for it will only result in mediocre execution. Better yet, it’s a good time to give the idea away.

Yaritsa Arenas – I usually try to get a second (or third) pair of eyes involved. Sometimes you’ve lived with something for so long that your view becomes a bit narrow. I find if even someone else’s input can’t help resuscitate it, then it’s time to let the idea go. Or like Brandon said, give it away.

That’s The Wrap-up!

That concludes the wrap-up for this month’s creative discussion, but the dialog carries on. So keep the comments coming either here in the wrap-up or in the original post. Either way, always remember:

Eric – “Good ideas don’t die, they’re just abandoned” – a paraphrase from Martin Scorsese.

Sometimes an idea can become beautiful in the hands of one and wither in the hands of another. If an idea is starting to with wither then it is time to bring in some reinforcements – as has already been mentioned, give it time, step back, look at it in a different way, get some feedback from some fresh eyes. If it’s still withering, then it is time to abandon the idea.

But this doesn’t mean that all hope is lost. Save your idea, this same idea work on a different project. Share your idea, someone else could use this inspiration. Good ideas never “die,” they exist in the ether of humanity. While an idea may not work with this project a good idea will find a new home somewhere else…

Rob is the talented author and graphic designer, celebrated podcaster and poet, who is now the co-editor and imaginative co-contributor of Fuel Your Creativity. With a background working through most areas of the arts, Rob works from a creative wellspring that shows no signs of running dry.


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