Too many ideas and not sure which to pick? Here’s help.

Amy Ng blogs at Pikaland, a popular stop for illustration lovers, students and artists who are looking for answers on how to find a balance between art, creativity and commerce.



It’s a very well known affliction that plague creatives – and I’m using the term creatives very loosely. It could very well mean entrepreneurs, who may have a pool of ideas to tap from for their next venture; or a designer who has a big sketchbook ready to go for their next collection or season. For an artist, it could come to mean experimenting with the use of various medias to come up with a series or even to redefine their personal style as they find ways to mix things up.

Creative people have ideas. Some have too many. Which one should I pick? Which one should come first? What if this doesn’t turn out well? What if I lose time on something that doesn’t work?

It’s an easy breeding ground for doubt and confusion, which can ultimately lead to paralysis.

I have lots of ideas. Some of them didn’t quite turn out, and some of them did. A few years ago I began to keep a sketchbook that listed out my ideas; I filled them with pages of pages of thoughts, comments, figures, sketches and with it, possibilities (although these days, instead of just using a sketchbook, I found that Trello is a great app in helping me sort out my ideas.) And it wasn’t just a continuation of one idea either – every other week I would come up with a new idea; or I would stew on a new idea and blend it with a previous one.

But no matter how many entries there were in my book, I was resigned to the fact that I only had two hands. I know myself enough to know that if I were to dabble in a few ideas, they would never turn out well enough for me to know if it was worth pursuing. So what I did was to just focus on one idea at a time – I owed the idea that much at least. To bring an idea to fruition takes time, dedication and effort; things that I knew would be scattered if I tried to juggle too many at a go.

It was still an experimentation none the less. But I choose to focus on one at a time so that I can properly document and figure things out as I move along. Is it working? Is it not? Can I do better? Do I want to keep doing this? Will I make a difference? I question the idea (and myself) constantly at every step of the way – much like a scientist who keeps a record of an experiment to see its progress.

And once you’re committed to the idea, you need to give it space and room to grow, to breathe, and a chance for it to live out its life. You’ll have to nurture it, see if it can stand on its own two feet, or if you’re lucky – to see if it could fly. But first, you’ll need to make a decision: which idea goes first?

The idea is simple: Pick one. Just one. And start from there.

A good friend reminded me once when I told her that I had trouble picking one idea, and she said this little gem of an advice that I carry to this day: “It’s good to have lots of ideas – this way we can execute them one by one until we’re 60. We’re all set for life!”

I’d like to think that it’s a great way to look forward to the future. Not everything needs to be done right here and now. It’s always prudent to save some of the good stuff for later. Don’t binge on everything at once. Take a bite, savour it, feel it, taste it and really enjoy the experience. Let it change and excite you. Life isn’t a buffet table for you to gorge on (although it can sometimes feel that way!) 

Here’s a couple of tips and reminders for those who are still indecisive:

Don’t let fear stop you from experimenting. And fear takes on many forms: fear of failure, fear of missed opportunities, or even plain old irrational fear.

Experiments always leads you somewhere, and often times it leads you down a path you might have considered before. Enjoy it and soak up the process!

Ideas on paper are just worth the paper they’re scribbled on – especially if you don’t start.

If you can juggle a few experiments at a go, by all means feel free to do so! Just be aware that if you drop the ball on one, the rest might follow – and you might not know what the outcome would be if you had focused on just one.

Consider that perhaps life is one big experiment.

That we’re all here just trying to figure out what works for us on many levels. Personally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and artistically. Finding a way to be able to fuse them altogether somehow, or balance them so that everything is in sync – if only for a moment. 

May we never stop trying.

May we never, ever stop experimenting.

[Illustration: Tyler Spangler]


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Thomas James

Thomas James

Thomas James is an Illustrator who has worked with The New York Times, WIRED, Pentagram, Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, and many others. You can see his portfolio at
Thomas James

Posted by Thomas James on 08/07/15 under artists,business,freelance
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