Ideas: Set Free Into the Wild

“Set your ideas into the wild.” It was just a sentence fragment I read on a blog today, but now, hours later, it still resonates. What a wonderful image–taking your ideas and setting them free against an autumn sky, to soar away.

The memory of fireflies, Ink on paper. © Quinn McDonald

You lose control over them, but you never really were in control of your ideas. You just kept them, like fireflies in a jar,  until you had filled your eyes with wonder, and then you let them go, because they weren’t really yours to begin with.  But you never forgot the glow in the dark and the churn of comfort and power you got from opening that jar and having the fireflies crawl to the rim, lift their wings and blink up into the grassy-smelling dark of night.

Our ideas are ours to nourish, marvel over, and set free into the wild. You write a book, you teach a class and your ideas float across space and time, to be caught, transformed and set free again, in different shapes and textures. You may not even recognize it when it comes back, but as it passes you on the street, dressed in a suit and formal with design, you’ll smell a hint of summer grass and catch a slight wink of light, and the memory will still be there.

The experience of recognition, the experience of power and joy, that makes setting free your ideas all the more worthwhile.

–Quinn McDonald has a jar of ideas on her desk. She remembers it once held fireflies.

22 thoughts on “Ideas: Set Free Into the Wild

  1. Oh they’re not MY minds — I keep some of my ideas in YOUR mind!

    (did I mention I also have an extensive collection of seashells? I keep them on beaches around the world)
    *this is really Stephen Wright’s line, by the way

  2. Quinn,
    Both your art and your text are beautifully moving. I thought to give an example from my own adventures in creativity, my own ideas – but find it lacking in substance next to your beautifully crafted words, your excellent ideas. Perhaps next time. 🙂

  3. I like the idea of comparing ideas to fireflies in a jar. If you keep them held captive too long, they both die. If you never give the fireflies or your ideas the freedom to fly, what good is that. It’s like keeping your art hidden in your computer or under your bed, seldom if ever brought out to be seen.

    I’ve sometimes struggled with this idea about my photographs. They are photographs, no matter what I do with them, where I store (hide) them, but I sometimes feel like my photography — those few I truly truly love — I feel like I could never consider them art unless I share with others, let others observe them, enjoy them, even fall in love with them.

    Here’s the thing — if I think of a new idea (new to me) that I can do with my photography and I do it, and love it, then when I show it at art festivals, and it is successful, soon other photographers use the idea, too. And I have to let go of the idea that just because I did my photo that way first in Hoodicky Hollow, it belongs to me, and so no one else from Hoodicky do anything similar. It was never my idea, one I got to hold hostage, in the first place. And if I hid the technique so no one else could do add to it and make it theirs, too, it wouldn’t be any good at all.

    It all makes sense, yet there are lots of “mine, mine” feeling lurking about, too. Conflicted feelings.

    • You have a lot of big truths in there, Bo. Your photographs are always your photograhs, whether you hide them in a locker to put them up for sale, they are the same photographs. And the ideas you have are new to you, and when you use them, others can see them. Some will make fun of you, some will love them so much they will buy them, and a few people will be inspired by you and your photographs. Yes, maybe someone will also use the technique, but with their ideas and their photographs, which is so very different than yours. And yep, that’s the exact time that “mine,” “mine,” “mine” will start. That’s the inner critic, who is always afraid someone will steal the last idea you will ever have. Instead, you are making room for more good ideas.

  4. This is beautiful imagery and as many good things do, your post sparks inspiration and more ideas. Like a domino effect. Thank you for that 🙂

  5. I’ve thought for a long time that no idea you “have” is yours at all. You didn’t generate it, it’s not new, and while you’re free to explore it, enjoy it, etc., you don’t own it. Same idea, I think!

    • Yep, exactly the same idea, Pete. In one house we lived, we had horribly overgrown,very old, stunted apple trees. We had them professionally trimmed and they grew back beautifully shaped, healthy, and produced delicious apples.I became very attached to the trees, the beauty of the blossoms, the fruit. Then we moved, and I realized with a deep shock that those trees had never been mine. I just took care of them for a period of time. It was a huge realization. And those trees are like ideas.

  6. You’re so right. Be inspired by an idea, transform it to our own expression and then let go. Many times I find myself holding on to an idea just to be stuck and nothing happens. I sure will practice to let go. Thanks for sharing, and have a nice weekend.

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