One of my favorite Steve Jobs' quotes was from his Stanford Commencement speech:
You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.
It's amazing how accurate this is, how one experience leads to another. Often at just the right time in your life you'll see the dots connect. I always try to remember this quote when things don't go the way I hope they will. Looking back, it usually makes a lot more sense the way it turned out.
I just read the blog post "Better Answers & How I Learned to Defrag My Brain." In it, Alex Hillman talks about the Spark File from Steven Johnson. He writes down any idea that comes to mind. It's saved to a file that amasses all the ideas he's had for years.
He found that when he looks back – and this is the important part – some ideas will start to make more sense. An idea he had today may be the missing piece to an idea he had in 2009, and now he can act on it. He makes it a point to re-read the file in full every few months.
As a creative, there are inevitably ruts where you feel like you can't create. Most of us probably write down ideas in one way or another. But rather than having notebooks, old emails, and the Notes app on my phone having a random collection of ideas, actually implementing a process as to how I curate those ideas makes so much sense.
I'm taking today to re-organize all my old ideas so they can live together. From this day forward, I'll be writing down every bad idea, too. You never know when the dots may connect.