The Magic of New Ideas


Think of three BIG IDEAS that have occurred to you in your lifetime.

Do you remember what it felt like?

I can recall 3 of mine:

Specifically, 1 idea I had when I was 11 to start a summer camp in my backyard.  A 2nd one was when I was 30 and I had a peculiar and very specific idea of how to grow a scrappy school string ensemble into a really good full orchestra. And the 3rd, on March 15th 2020, when I had this strange idea about starting a virtual summer festival for cellists.

I remember the ideas very clearly, and I remember executing the ideas and finding success in them.

But I don’t remember HOW I had the ideas.  They just appeared.  Perhaps there is a deeply scientific reason involving the coming together of various bits of information all at once, etc. etc. but that’s certainly not how it felt to me.


It felt more like Liz Gilbert’s theory of ideas in her book, Big Magic:


“The hairs on the back of my neck stood up for an instant, and I felt a little sick, a little dizzy.  I felt like I was falling in love, or had just heard alarming news, or was looking over a precipice at something beautiful and mesmerizing, but dangerous.

 I’d experienced these symptoms before, so I knew immediately what was going on.  Such an intense emotional and physiological reaction doesn’t strike me often, but it happens enough… that I believe I can confidently call it by its name: inspiration.  This is what it feels like when an idea comes to you.”


And, as Gilbert goes on to explain, each time one of those ideas came to me, it asked me a simple question: “Do you want to work with me?” and I had two options.


Plenty of ideas have come to “visit” me, for whatever reason, I would say no thank you, and I’d be off the hook, but these three particular times, I said yes.

And before I knew it, I was going door to door handing out homemade flyers about my camp, or I was digging into admissions files, or I was hiring faculty to teach at my yet-unannounced festival.



There is, however, one thing that all three situations had in common.  Just before the BIG IDEA came to me, I was in a place of emptiness. Not emotionally, but in terms of how I was spending my day.  When I was 11, at the beginning of my summer break, there was no social media, no video games to play. So if I had nothing to do and I had already practiced, I would just be sitting in my room, my imagination my only companion. And this past March, with my last live performance just behind me and nothing on the horizon, my mind was a clear and empty slate.


And then, poof.


I joke that my first thought upon reflecting on my canceled west coast recital tour was “oh, good, some much-needed time off” and my 2nd thought was “or, I could create and run a major international festival and launch it in 4 weeks”

When we are stressed, busy, and generally distracted (by Netflix, social media, whatever your own particular time-sucking vice is) it’s hard to notice the ideas that are coming to us. They often appear as a faint voice, and if there is too much noise going on in your head, you won’t hear it.



So step 1 is: Create Some Space.


  • Walking is good (without the podcast or audiobook. Just walk in silence)
  • Meditation. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy, just sit there with your eyes shut, not trying to fall asleep.
  • Coloring/drawing
  • Gardening
  • Folding laundry (without music or the news on in the background)
  • Taking a shower (when you’re not in the kind of hurry that causes you to nick yourself with the razor or get shampoo in your eyes.)


Step 2: Weigh Your Options


You really only have 2 ways to respond once an idea comes to you.  Yes, or No. To figure out which one it’s going to be,  ask yourself the following:

  • If successfully executed, will this idea improve my life?
  • Will it improve the lives of others?
  • How much will it cost me in terms of time or money?
  • Do I have most of the necessary skills to pull this off?
  • If I say no, and I later see someone else doing the same thing, how will I feel?


Step 3: Nope, No way.

If the answer is no, then you’re the hook completely. Just don’t start kicking yourself if and when you see someone else taking on the same thing.

Step 4: Yeah, Baby! 

If the answer is yes, then be prepared for the following emotions

  • Giddiness
  • Glee
  • Excitement
  • Panic
  • Terror
  • Fear
  • Concern


Step 5: Be prepared to battle with the following thoughts:


  • If it was such a great idea, someone else would have done it by now
  • If it’s such a great idea, a million people WILL be doing it and I’ll have too much competition
  • I’m not good enough
  • I’m not smart enough
  • I don’t have time
  • People will think I’m crazy
  • People will think I’m being ridiculous


Step 6: Find someone who will support you.


When I was 11, it was my group of stuffed animals that kept me company and were my sounding board for all important things, also, my next-door neighbor, Mrs. K for telling me she thought it was a good idea.

When I was 30, it was my two bosses.  The head of the music department who said “I believe in you, you have my full support” and the headmaster, who said “well, I think you’re crazy for thinking you can pull this off, but it would be great if you could, so you have my full support”

And this past March, it was my business coach, and the other members of my group coaching program, all of whom supported me through all of the emotions of creating a huge new initiative in the ever-changing landscape of the early days of COVID-19.


Step 7: Look at the worst-case scenario.


If it fails and completely blows up in your face? “They” will forgive you. You will forgive yourself.  You will recover. Everyone and Everything will move on. It will be totally fine.


Step 8: Focus on the best-case scenario.


See it in your mind, write about it, and work with that result in mind.  It will keep you going when you’re questioning your sanity.



You know that feeling of restlessness you get sometimes?


When you start pacing around the house aimlessly, wondering what’s next? And why you can’t figure it out?  When it feels like your whole life is an ill-fitting piece of clothing?


That’s usually the first sign.


So go ahead and create some space for yourself.  Some silence. And revel in that silence.


It’ll come. 

You can’t force it.

But it’ll come. I promise. 


And I can’t wait to see what happens when you say yes to it.


Pssst…There’s a Tales From The Lane Facebook Group!  Come and join us over there for some live (and lively) conversations about navigating the world of professional music-making. Click here to check it out! 


Doors are closed for the current run of my 10-week group coaching experience, The Profit Pivot,  but the next round will be starting up in January, and an amazing group of professional musicians just like yourself is going to take their “out-of-the-box” ideas and turn them into profit-growing realities. Book a call with me today to see what that could look like for you and to grab one of the limited spots. 

If you’re just at the beginning of all of this, and you’re not sure what you should be doing, but you know you need to start doing something different?  I’d be more than happy to talk with you about it.  Anyone can book a 30-minute “Discovery Call” with me here

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