“An idea, like a ghost, must be spoken to a little before it will explain itself.” – Charles Dickens

I began writing an essay this morning tentatively titled “Early Warning Signs You’re Writing a Bad Essay.” Then this afternoon, I came across an essay I had saved by Jessica Wildfire on basically the same subject. (Jessica is a smart and funny contributor to Medium.com whom I follow.)

“Even geniuses have terrible ideas,” she says in the essay. “They’re just good at spotting them. They know what a good ideal feels like…. I’m coming off fresh from a stupid idea, with firsthand knowledge of what it feels like from start to finish.”

She then lists the following:

“10 Signs You’ve Got a Stupid Idea” by Jessica Wildfire 

  1. You feel like it’s utterly brilliant 

“The idea feels like a masterpiece waiting to happen. You haven’t even started working on it, and yet you just know somehow.”

  1. You’re obsessed with its originality 

“Nobody has ever thought of this before, right? You’ll be the first. In truth, nobody’s ever the first to come up with an idea. Not anymore. Humans have lived too long. Every idea just adds a little something.”

  1. You focus on the bells and whistles 

“The idea should be enough. It doesn’t need special features or gimmicks.”

  1. You can’t wait to show it to someone 

“That’s because you feel insecure about your brilliant idea, and you want external validation right away.”

  1. It forms out of desperation 

“You’re probably deep in the swamp of failure. You’re not feeling great about yourself. You’re looking for any reason to feel better. This means you’re more likely to overestimate the quality of your ideas.”

  1. You feel an urge to get it done now 

“Part of you sees what’s going on, and it tries to get you to slow down and think. Your better self doesn’t want you throwing away ten hours on an idea with no merit. Ironically, this puts the rest of your brain into overdrive.”

  1. It’s completely unfeasible 

“That’s the part that tantalizes you. It looks really hard, perhaps even impossible, and right now you want the distraction of a challenge.”

  1. You care more about the idea than anything 

“The best ideas add value to other people’s lives. When you skip over this part, that’s a red hot sign that you should stop and relax.”

  1. You start fearing that it will fail 

“A good idea will get better through criticism. A stupid idea completely falls apart.”

  1. It’s actually torturing you 

“A good idea should feel good…. You should be approaching it with a calm, patient attitude. It’s hard, but the good kind of hard – not the kind that makes you agitated, swinging back and forth between euphoria and panic attacks.”

To Jessica’s observations, I might add… well, frankly, I can’t think of anything else.