Posted on April 16, 2012
Sometimes my ideas are too big. They spill out of me, unformed, cawing for my attention, lacking the necessary detail that imbues them with clarity and life. There is nothing innately meaningful about the thoughts, “Women can be so competitive” or “Perfectionism is a real bummer.” But these big ideas keep tumbling out, refusing to take shape and find a grounding point. I went for a walk along the water, trying to create smaller ideas, little hooks with which to bind my too-big, racing thoughts. Ideas don’t really mean anything unless we can forge a connection between them. If I can’t make you see the exact blue-green-black shade of the sea as I walked through the cooling, late afternoon wind today, you aren’t going to be emotionally invested. And if I can’t make that sea somehow relate to a sea you once walked beside, or longed for, or are longing for still, I shouldn’t expect you to care enough to come along for the ride.
So on a day like today, where my ideas are too big, I think about how we all have ideas that don’t work. Ideas that suck. Ideas that we can’t latch onto tiny, real-life moments. It happens in writing, in business, in politics. And I say, good. Tell the truth. Think smaller. Give me a tiny story about the sea and the way the wind tastes and the people holding hands but not speaking. Not what you ate for breakfast, but how the hot sauce burned your tongue and your eyes teared up and you snapped at your husband. Too often, we focus on the big: “What does it all mean?” or the truly mundane: “I went to the grocery store and bought dog biscuits.” Life is small. It’s in the details. It’s in what you make of those details and how you express them to others. So don’t tell me about your plain, boring eggs or your life changing revelation. Tell me something real.
If you want me to care about your car, or your novel, or your new app, give it to me short, sweet, and specific. That’s what Apple does so well. And Instagram. It’s why the VW ad was a hit. It’s why your favorite writers are able to form the words you can’t in order to say the very things you are thinking.
Because they know where the truth lies. It’s in the moments where we stop trying so hard to be something big and allow ourselves to be minuscule. Interesting. Real.