A few minutes ago, I came up with what I thought was a pretty decent idea for a blog post.
And then I wrote one sentence, and very quickly realized it was possibly the worst idea for a blog post I’d ever had. So I decided to start writing this post instead.
I am the expert writer who always preaches the “never quit” mentality. Don’t give up! Your dreams matter! Take your ideas and run with them — you’ll do great!
There’s only one problem with that message, though. I think it can create the assumption that you are never allowed to stop working on anything, even when it’s terrible.
I could have suffered through that blog post. I could have just said, “Well, I’ve already started, so there’s no turning back now!”
But guess what? You all would have suffered too. And that’s not a good use of anyone’s time — especially yours.
Yes — I said no to a bad idea and metaphorically shredded it into a thousand pieces. I’m glad I did. There’s a small bit of satisfaction that comes with realizing you’ve been doing something long enough — and hopefully well enough — to know when something is worth struggling through and when it isn’t.
It kind of makes you feel like you sort of maybe know what you’re doing. Maybe.
The thing is, bad ideas come to even the best of us. They don’t mean we’re not doing a good job. There are just ideas that are good and those that aren’t — and sometimes in order to focus on the good ideas that have potential, you have to learn to let go of the ideas that really don’t have any hope of going anywhere.
How do you know if something is a bad idea? You give it a chance. And once you give it a chance, you either decide it’s worth continuing or come to the realization that you want to fold it up, put it in a box, throw that box into a lake, and forget it ever existed.
And do you know what? It’s totally OK if you decide your once-brilliant idea was never nearly as brilliant as you thought it was. If any idea isn’t going to work for you, it isn’t going to work. You can’t force it. There’s a difference between quitting and setting something aside. The latter means you’re actively deciding your time will definitely be better spent not doing the thing you’re currently trying to do.
Have a terrible idea you’re not sure what to do with? Just let it go. Throw it away, if you want to. It’s not worth stressing over. There are better things out there. Go find them!
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 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.