Setting Free Ideas

“Set your ideas into the wild.” It was just a sentence fragment I read on a blog last year, but now, all this time 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

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.


16 thoughts on “Setting Free Ideas

  1. We don’t have fireflies here but we do have glow worms . . . I think they’re what are in my mind. When I sit still and I’m quiet they shine their light and drive away the shadows or at least mock them. A happy situation.

    When I stayed with a friend in Cincinnati there were fireflies in her back yard and I was completely entranced by them.

    • Ooooh, I’ve never seen a glow worm. Many years ago, we lived rurally and had two big apple trees. I kept their care organic, and the apples were delicious. One summer evening there was a strong thunderstorm, and after the rain stopped, I wend out to see the lightning move off into the distance. There were thousands of fireflies in the apple trees, blinking their survival after the rain, and it was magical. A neighbor who saw it thought it was a light display I’d put up. Nope, just nature.

  2. I love fireflies and they are becoming scarcer and scarcer here in Central VT. I saw only a couple this year and my lawn used to be full of them in June. Was your “Memory of Fireflies” a happy accident or do you know how to make that happen?

    • We don’t have fireflies in Phoenix at all, and it’s one of the things I miss a lot about the East Coast. It’s sad to hear you don’t have that many anymore. The technique is one I can easily repeat, but the shape is one that was totally accidental.

  3. There are only 857 ideas in the world. They circulate among people constantly. And they’re pretty quick, too; you’d think with only 857 ideas to go around it would be rare to encounter one, but it happens.

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