On Letting Ideas Marinate

In the past couple weeks, I’ve written a bit about the why and how when it comes to transforming your ideas into words.

I’ve also encouraged you to take the plunge and dive in and just start writing.

But...what if your idea isn’t quite ready yet?

What if you feel like you’re on the edge of something good...but you need to sit with it for a bit longer to get a good grasp on what you’re trying to communicate?

It occurred to me the other day that sometimes, it’s good to let ideas marinate a little longer before you dive in.

(This is hard for me, because I am GO-GO-GO most of the time. A pre-crastinator, if anything. The concept of “marinating” is not one I accept easily. Maybe you can relate.)

However, my husband was recently telling me about a story on the Danish concept of niksen, which is intentionally doing nothing. You let your mind wander freely, without purpose.


The truth is: For me, that’s sometimes when I get my best, most well-formulated ideas.

This is especially true when it comes to creative storylines, but it sometimes even works when I’m wrestling with a technical topic that I can’t quite nail down.

Now, on the surface level, I know you get the gist of this concept.

However, I always like to share some specific ways you can be deliberate about doing this to take the theory and put it into practice.

Here are a few of my favorite ways to practice niksen:

Go for a walk. Better yet, go for a walk in a green area that you’re not used to walking in. Studies show that “forest bathing” is a great way to spur creativity when you’re feeling stuck or tired. It’s a sort of mental reset button.

Find your flow music and go for a drive. For me, I can put on Radiohead’s In Rainbows album and drive for hours, just thinking about things and letting ideas bounce off the walls of my mind. I sometimes even keep a single song on repeat because it puts me into a more creative mood, eventually phasing into the background as pretty noise. This is your “flow.” Find your soundtrack that does that for you and go for an aimless cruise.

Sit outside (preferably in a hammock or rocking chair.) I’m sure there’s some sort of when-you-were-a-baby psychology behind the fact that rocking or swaying is good for creative thinking, but man, it works. Especially at sunset, sitting and soaking up the outdoors without an agenda allows your mind some time to work in the background.

The big idea

The way your concept of niksen manifests itself might look different than these ideas--and that’s fine.

The big idea here, however, is to give yourself permission to let the idea sit until you feel like you’re in the right mental space to really dive in.

Now, this doesn’t mean putting off writing indefinitely. But it does mean you don’t have to go straight from idea to keyboard in the same day.

A good rule of thumb: Give it a week.

Talk about the idea with other people. Create some time for awake, deliberate nothingness when your brain can absorb things but not be overly taxed with a task.

When you come back to sit down and write, you’ll likely have a fresh take on what you want to say.

This article originally appeared in my newsletter, A Cup of Copy. Sign up and get these free tips sent right to your inbox every other Wednesday.