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  • Writer's pictureTodd Wolfe

Great Ideas Take Great Work

Updated: Aug 16, 2022

Work: to move or cause to move gradually or with difficulty into another position, typically by means of constant movement or pressure.

Inertia: a property of matter by which it continues in its existing state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line, unless that state is changed by an external force.

Left alone everything exists in a state of inertia (physicists, cut me a little slack here). A rock on the ground remains on the ground unless you pick it up. A rock you throw through the air continues in its glorious flight until it hits something. Just hope it hits the ground rather than a window, unless of course, you are participating in a riot.

Did you see what happened? You just did something to that rock. You applied a force. You made that rock move. And in order to do that, you had to work.

And it is not just rocks and physical objects that require our work if we want them to move, but also our ideas. Ideas have weight. And, just like that rock, ideas exist in a state of inertia. Many ideas are just sitting around and not going anywhere. Ideas like that novel you want to write, and that piece of art I want to make, or the deck I want to build. In order for novels and sculptures and decks to be made, work needs to happen. Most of us, when we think of work, only think of the physical kind: you need to pick up the pen and make some notes; I need to get the supplies together and start forming that sculpture; I need to buy the lumber to make a deck. Often times, just the thought of doing the physical work can be difficult. But, the physical work is in many ways the easy part of the project.

Usually, the more difficult aspect of the project is the thought part. The idea part. The creativity part. What am I going to write about? How am I going to write about it? What is the goal of the novel? How is the plot going to be laid out? What narrative forms will I use? What are the characters' backgrounds that will never be divulged, but must be there for them to be believable? And on, and on. It is these, the ideas, their formation and their refinement, that usually are the show stoppers, or more often, the thing that keeps the show from ever getting off the ground.

But how? How do you consistently create those new ideas? How do you move an idea from one place to somewhere else?

You pick it up.

It really is no different than the rock. Our idea will stay just where we left it until we take our little brain over to that idea, pick it up and hold it for a while (sometimes, a long while), turning it over in our head and deciding what to do with it. Where else could we put it down? What could we add to it? What could we remove from it? How can we distort it, stretch it, shrink it, mold it? Working ideas is nothing like building a deck. There are no 10 steps to creating an idea. It takes work. It takes awareness. It takes weathering years of not so good and sometimes non-existent ideas. It takes consistency. It takes consciousness. It takes conviction.

It takes faith that the ideas will come and they will make a difference in your life…and in the world. What other choice do we have? I guess we could just leave it lying there.

But what do you say…shall we? No more standing around avoiding that thing on the ground. Let us pick it up. Turn it over in our hands. Mull it over in our minds. Let us not live in an illusion that our next idea is going to come to us fully refined and ready to make. Let us, with boldness and courage, walk through the pits of fear and unknowing and let us apprehend that idea and get to work.

For that is how creativity happens. You do things to ideas. No work. No ideas. No great work, no great ideas.

1. Oh, by the way…ideas really do have weight. Check out his video from NPR explaining the weight of our thoughts.

2. Definitions of “work” and “inertia” from Oxford Languages ( via Google’s search engine.

3. Image credit: Jaikishan Patel via

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