Michael Ashcroft

June 22, 2021 9:23

Stopping the habitual suppression of creative ideas

I’ve noticed an interesting tendency in myself as I’ve once again picked up regular creative output of the ‘make something every day’ kind, where my intention is to publish a new YouTube video and/or a new notebook post every day.

This tendency is my mind’s habit of discounting potential video or notebook ideas almost as if they’re unworthy of consideration.

On the face of it this might seem sensible. I mean, not every idea is good and should be broadcast to the world, right?

I’m not sure.

My first objection to this tendency is that it seems to happen almost beneath the level of conscious awareness. I may be casually mind-wandering in the shower, have a classic shower thought on something I could write about, and immediately and almost imperceptibly suppress that idea by this “nah” process.

Well, hang on, many of the times when I catch these ideas for long enough to actually make something out of them, they’re often pretty good, or contain sufficient amounts of ‘good’ for me to then craft them into something worth developing further. That alone suggests that this tendency is in some way overpowered and is acting against my own interests.

My second objection is that this entire game of making things every day is to support my desire to prolific, and being prolific requires having a vast abundance of ideas to draw upon. Sitting down for half an hour every day trying to think of things to write notebook posts about is a bad strategy if I only want to spend half an hour every day writing notebook posts.

If there is a deeper, creative part of me that is gently feeding me ideas — and there must be, because I’m increasingly confident that ‘the I that thinks’ (left hemisphere?) is not capable of original thought; it can’t create things from nothing — then I want to cultivate the ability to turn down the other parts of me that habitually interfere with it.  That was once hell of a sentence but let’s roll with it.

So in fact, this entire creative project is a frame that allows me to do that. Each time I consciously note the fact that I am having ideas that I am then almost automatically suppressing, I can assert that I welcome the idea, that I no longer wish to suppress ideas, and so change my habitual response. Bonus points, I guess, if I actually make things from those ideas.

And for completion, this post was brought to you by one of the ideas that I noticed myself almost suppressing in the shower. I welcome the ideas.

I just thought it was pretty


I publish a newsletter called Thinking Out Loud, which chronicles my journey as an online maker of things, but it's also is where I talk about whatever I'm interested in at the time.​ There are about 1500 of us now, come play!