Having an idea is like taking a hit of a fine drug.
Inspiration strikes and you feel excited, certain you're going to do something great. It's intoxicating, like having a secret. Only you know that you have this idea in you. Just wait until you do it, just wait until they see it. You sit back and enjoy the rush of it, let the potential of your idea carry you away into a world of possibility.
You can ride this high an entire lifetime.
By thinking about our idea, we tell ourselves we're doing something. Maybe we share our vision with our friends, or we daydream about it often, or we even scribble a few notes or doodles for it now and then. We satiate our creative appetite by luxuriating in the knowledge and thrill of our idea. We believe deep down, something big is coming.
We promise ourselves we'll act on our idea when the timing is right. We'll write that brilliant screenplay soon. We'll pick up the paintbrush and create the masterpiece we've had in our head. We'll act on that business idea in a future phase of life. Once things slows down, once we have room to breathe, once we have more time to really do it right. In the meantime, we go about our days. And our days turn into months, which turn into years. We don't see it happening, because we are certain the right moment will come soon enough. Tomorrow, or next weekend, or next year. Ultimately, it amounts to a passive life.
I picture it like that scene from "Minority Report." The dreamers floating in the mysterious pool of water, eyes clouded over in some trance-like state. They are preserved for countless years in stasis, murmuring about something important happening in the future. They are in this world physically but not truly alive.
When we don't claim our time, it's claimed for us. We can fill an entire week with small errands and social obligations. We can feel productive day to day simply surviving – going to work, coming home, making dinner, watching a show and going to bed. We can forget or ignore the passing ideas and flickering moments of inspiration easily. Or we may acknowledge them. They may come to us daily like firecrackers. Yet just as quickly, they fizzle and fade.
"Every day we slaughter our finest impulses. That is why we get a heartache when we read those lines written by the hand of a master and recognize them as our own..." - Henry Miller
Our ideas are dangerous. They convince us of our genius, our unrecognized talent, our budding potential. Our ideas placate our inner creative spirit with cheap, temporary highs. They pat our yearning soul on the head and say "soon, soon."
The difference between people who have done the thing we wish to do – wrote the book, created the art, pursued the business dream – is not talent or smarts or even luck. The difference is simply that they did it. They felt that initial high of an idea and knew it was short-lived and untrustworthy. They understood if they didn't act immediately, the rush would pass. So they acted. Then they did it again the next day.
We resist this truth, or even feel offended by it, because we're frightened or tired or bitter. We've got jobs, debts, obligations, chores, hangups, setbacks. We don't have the time, the money or the opportunities. Everyone can find a number of these excuses within reach.
But if we accept that all that stands between us and realizing our idea is just doing it – well, we might actually, finally, do it.