Abandoning Ideas to Embrace Better Ones
I think as I get older, it gets a little bit easier to abandon things. When I was younger, I would never abandon things because that just wasn’t in my nature. To abandon things was to give up.
(But thank goodness I allowed myself to abandon ship part of the way through the novel Wicked because I had had enough.)
I’ve learned that abandoning something no longer necessarily means failing. Abandoning things can often be the very best thing that you can do for yourself or for others. Letting go of a toxic relationship, replacing a habit with something more beneficial, closing the pages of a book that isn’t serving you, giving up on a DIY project that just is not happening, quitting a job that is sucking out your soul on the regular–all of these things are GOOD and probably pretty necessary.
When it comes to ideas though, sometimes abandoning them can feel like failure. Either we’re wondering what if or we’re being hard on ourselves for being “too lazy” or “too busy” or “too disorganized” to follow through.
But I’m learning that some ideas need to be abandoned in order to make room for the ones that really count. The ideas that get you excited every time you think about them. The ones that stick around in your head for longer than that brief moment of inspiration. The ones you can’t shake. Those are the ideas that should be pursued. And aren’t they shaped in some way by the ideas that we have abandoned?
Interestingly enough, I feel I have abandoned the idea of what Ampersand Creative was. Though many things will remain the same as I pursue Ampersand, I am letting go of some of the beliefs, ideas, and topics I once spent much time and energy focusing on.
Before, I used to be a firm believer of saying YES to everything. That’s how I justified the name “ampersand” after all. “Say “yes to the ‘ands’ in your life.” While I still firmly believe that you can and should be defined by more than one thing, I no longer believe you should say yes to everything. (Thank you Essentialism for the reminder last year!) I think there is a period of life in which saying yes to everything is important. If I hadn’t said yes to nearly every opportunity that came my way in college and after I left teaching, I would never be where I am today. I tried so many things, met so many people, and grew immensely–simply because I had no reason to say no.
But now, I think you should say no to everything that does not align with what you truly want or anything that doesn’t serve you or the people you care about. Certainly there are things we all have to do that we don’t necessarily want to do, but no longer should you say yes to more work or to the invitation to the dreadful event that can’t even be justified as “pushing you out of your comfort zone.”
But I’m abandoning the original path of Ampersand Creative for more than just that reason.
Spend a moment in the creative niche and you’ll feel it: things are changing. We’re all going through a bit of a content crisis and no one really knows how to navigate or where to go from here. The niche has gotten to be so oversaturated with bloggers blogging about blogging and entrepreneurs running businesses about running businesses. And while I absolutely see the value in these offerings (I did them myself!), I couldn’t help but wonder when we all got so lost and caught up in it all.
The truly successful individuals that offer these things are those who have years of experience, of trial and error, of courage in the face of failure, and that’s why they are rockstars at teaching others how to blog and run businesses. But I fear that too many try to imitate these rockstars’ successes and forget to show what’s really unique and amazing about themselves. And in concentrating so hard on 100k launches and releasing content upgrade after content upgrade and making sure every single post is actionable and being active on all the platforms, we’ve lost a lot of the storytelling and human connection that blogging once held.
If all of our focus is on improving our brands and making our visuals better and tightening our writing and then imparting all of that knowledge on the next person who then does the same thing with their own twist, what are we actually saying? Is anyone actually putting something else out there? It’s all valuable, for certain, but someone has to talk about something else in addition to these things or we’re all just stuck in a loop, aren’t we? It’s almost as though we’ve forgotten that all of these incredible tips and tricks and workbooks and webinars are to help other bloggers and entrepreneurs improve their work, not just to help people in the same niche accomplish the same things.
And maybe I’m just too close to it all. Maybe I can’t see the bigger picture. Maybe I’ve grown more cynical with age. But I do know that I have struggled with how to enter back into a niche that is already so full. How can I justify adding to the noise? How can I stand out?
When I launched Ampersand, I wrote about all of the things I was abandoning–the things I was “unconditioning” myself to believe. It was easy to write all of these things I wanted to let go of–the idea that you had to be on every social media platform or that you have to blog at least once a week or that every blog post needs to have action steps or it’s not considered “professional”–but it was a whole other thing to let go and to march forward with something new. If I’m being honest, I wrote the majority of his post months ago, but I had yet to hit publish until just now. Why? Because I’m still blindly crawling back into this industry, skeptical of where I fit in. Because I’ve changed and it’s not always easy to convey those changes when you’re not even sure what’s different.
But I’m here now and I am embracing what Ampersand will be. I may not know the long-term goals anymore or want the same things for myself and my brand, but that’s okay. All I really know now is that I want to focus more on the individuals in this creative niche--what you’re going through personally, professionally, creatively, emotionally, spiritually and how we can navigate those awkward transitions together. I know that my brand will continue to change as I change. And that is just the way it should be.
I haven’t lost hope, by the way. There are people who are writing things with substance, things that matter, things that inspire. Chances are, you’re one of those people, too. If you haven’t hit publish yet, I implore you to do so. Not all ideas should be abandoned. :)
This blog post was inspired by Erica Midkiff's Explore Challenge prompt: Write about an idea you abandoned.