How to Evaluate your Ideas

How to Evaluate your Ideas
By Brad Weston

When you are being creative you will generate loads of ideas. Some will be good, some will be utterly wretched. It is up to you to tell which is which. But how? This can be a stressful challenge for someone who hasn’t done it before, but really, it’s not that hard if you take things step by step. Most people get overwhelmed because they try to choose too soon.

Generate
First of all, you must have a list of what the ideas are. What are your choices? If you only have a few options then you can just do this step in your head. If, however, your project requires that you generate lots and lots of ideas, then you will have to write things down.

It can actually be pretty helpful to write things down because just having a list to look at can lead to more and more ideas. The more possibilities you have at this step, the better your final result will be. This is the thing that may seem to stymie people who are unfamiliar with the process. In reality, the more choices that you have the more likely it is that you will hit upon something truly great.

Eliminate
After you have a big list of possibilities, the next step is to eliminate the things that are not going to work. Figure out what your ideal criteria are at this point. Your criteria will be unique for you. Here are criteria that I often use:

  • Height
  • Stage footprint size
  • Portability
  • Color Scheme
  • Appropriateness for audience maturity
  • Visual clarity for size of audience
  • Multiple uses of prop in my case
  • Set up time
  • Length of performance time required
  • Uniqueness

Your criteria are likely to reflect other things that are important to you. You might only want things that look sophisticated or things that can be done in a tuxedo. You should write this list of things down for yourself, because you will re-visit this on future projects.

Fascinate
At this point, a good number of the ideas on your brian-storm list will be ruled out. Whatever is left over is in the running to go all the way. It is finally time to try to pick something to work on. We are back to the question of how do you choose. Simple. What interests you?

Really, what turns your crank? What fascinates you? You have to ask yourself this question, because if you are not drawn to anything, then you should not proceed. There may be a lot of obstacles in your way in order to make your vision a reality. That is why you have to love it. You have to be able to dream big and fill your dream, no, fuel your dream with optimism.

Sometimes, it can be helpful to ask other people what they think of the ideas on the table. This can be okay to a point, but here is the point: only you have the vision for what it is you want to do. When you tell others about your idea, there is a good possibility that they will not be able to picture it as you do. They might say it isn’t a good idea and they might be wrong. You are the artist.

When I decided that I was going to learn to walk bare-foot on the single edge of a sword blade as if it were a tightrope, everyone I told about it thought that I was crazy. I tried and tried to convince them that it was a viable idea, but still everyone said it would be an expensive waste of time. If I had listened to others then I would have never developed the stunt that has gotten me on more tv shows than any other thing in my repertoire. I have seen this play out again and again with other ideas over the years.

There are no guarantees.
Unfortunately, after all of the work that you will do. There are no guarantees that what you spend all of your time on will make it into your show. As hard as that may seem, it is a part of the game. Do not despair, because you will be gaining skills all along the way with each project that you work on. Even if you have to table an idea, the skill set that you developed is likely to re-appear in something else later on down the road. Nothing that you learn will be wasted.

The other reason to simply Get it Out There is that if your mind is stuck on something that you are excited about, it can keep you from creating other things. It can work like a creative block. Sometimes you have got to get the idea built so that it is no longer blocking you creatively so you can move on. Many times, after I have spent a week or two building something that ends up not working, I get another inspiration for something that does work. Acting on your creative ideas is a way to clean your creative slate so that you can start again.

Remember: Generate, Eliminate, Fascinate.

Brad Weston is a writer, juggler, and creative thinker from way back. For more information about him and his work check out his website at http://www.bradweston.com

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