How to Know If An Idea Is Worth Pursuing

How do you know it’s worth your time?

Inspiration hits you right in the gut. It tugs at your heart, floods your brain, and probably makes your hands tingle a little (weird, but so is the creative process). You have a new idea! You’re so excited about it!

But … what if.

What if it turns out this new idea is terrible?

How do you know it’s not just a sparkler that’s going to go out in 30 seconds or less?

Here’s my method for figuring out whether or not you should pursue a new idea —

Try sleeping on it.

Not just for a night or even a week. Leave it alone for a month; two; six. Let it sink into your brain. Let it settle; give it a chance to grow. Because if you give it time, and it’s meant to become something meaningful and real, it will. Good ideas don’t have to be rushed. In fact, many of them have a much greater chance of success if you don’t force them into production immediately after they form.

We rush into new ideas too quickly because we’re afraid we’ll forget about them. Or we get caught up in the thrill of inspiration. Maybe we’re even a little worried that if we don’t jump on this thing RIGHT NOW, someone else is going to beat us to it.

These are all fairly rational reasons to start acting on inspiration too soon. But let me ask you this: what happens when you start putting all the time and energy you can spare into a brand-new project, only to find out it’s too similar to what’s already been done, there’s no market fit, it’s a half-formed idea — or you’re just not as interested in pursuing it as you originally thought?

While there’s always a chance things won’t work out — that’s just how ideas and business work — you could probably save yourself a lot of stress and anxiety if you just waited. Thought things through. Let your idea either blossom or die, before it ever left your head (or the scrap of paper you scribbled it on before falling back asleep).

Not every idea we come up with is going to turn into something tangible. I work for a media company. I probably come up with 10-20 article ideas weekly. I pitch five, at most. Only two or three of the ideas that make it to the pitching stage enter my writing queue. But what I’ve found is that the longer I let an idea unfold itself in my brain, the more confident I am about it — and the more prepared I am to transform it into a real product.

Coming up with Novelty posts works the same way. The titles I craft days in advance and don’t touch again until i sit down to turn them into posts are the ones that perform the best. Sure, every once in awhile, an idea — and everything I want to say about it — pours into my brain so quickly I have to stop what I’m doing to get it down on paper. But even then, I like to let that flow happen, and then wait a day or two. If I’m still happy with it, I’ll publish it as-is. If it needs some tweaking, I do that, and that’s what you see.

If you’re not sure whether or not an idea is good enough, leave it alone. If it refuses to leave you alone, if you keep going back to it again and again, then you know it’s something you want to stick with. You won’t forget a good idea. You’ll forget plenty of ideas that aren’t meant to grow — but you won’t even notice they’re gone.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

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