Not every great idea is good at the start. Sometimes you have an idea, but it needs work. That is why incubation is important.
I remember needing to produce an important copywriting job and I thought I had a workable idea. I worked with it for a while and came up with what I thought was a viable draft. Rather than editing and finalizing it at that point, I purposefully set it aside for a short time.
When I returned to the draft, several dimensions of the approach had somehow refined themselves in my mind. Some aspects of the copy that I originally thought were brilliant did not look so brilliant. Other angles I had not conceived of suddenly appeared in my mind and tightened the message. Upon making the edits and publishing, I was told later by one of my clients it was one of the best pieces of copywriting she had ever seen.
We need to trust the incubation period. The mind tends to work just as effectively during our down times as our up times, but just in different ways. Not all work is accomplished just when the mental gearshift is engaged, but also when it is in neutral. Incubation acknowledges and allows for that process.
The next time you are involved in any creative process, be sure to allow for an incubation period. No one likes the frustration of being presented with the proverbial half-baked idea. Do not do it to someone else.
I love the way this incubation dynamic is summarized by Cheryl Strayed. Strayed had experienced some deeply personal trials and victories that served as the basis for a book, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. The book did not come until many years had passed. When questioned as to why she apparently waited so long to write, Strayed explains (“A ‘Wild’ Walk toward Healing” The Kansas City Star, 4/20/13, pp. C1, C3):
“I didn’t wait. . . . I wrote about it as soon as I had something to say about it. A life experience doesn’t equal literature. Sometimes things have to simmer.”
As businesspeople, sometimes we have to let things simmer.