It’s Got to Please You: Ideas that Go “Bing” and Finding Your Way

by Jennifer Paros 

If you always do what interests you, at least one person is pleased.
— Katharine Hepburn

In an episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Jerry Seinfeld asks filmmaker, writer, and comedian Mel Brooks about the scene in Blazing Saddles in which a posse of cowboys on horses bursts through a wall and into an all gay, top hats and tails musical number. Seinfeld admires Brooks’ bold and seemingly risky choice and asks if he’d been sure it was going to work. Brooks says he hadn’t been – he only knew the idea “tickled” him. He said, “It’s got to please you; if you don’t laugh, they’re not going to laugh.”

The business of creating is easier when we stay focused on what pleases us. In the beginning, we can’t know exactly how something will come together, but that’s part of the process of discovery. We can see what’s in front of us, and the tail of what’s ahead. The unfolding is our job, and only requires our attention and allowance in the moment. We can discover only what we allow ourselves to explore, so permission must be granted to not know and go forward. And the navigational device best suited for these travels is what pleases us, whatever that may be.

Joseph Campbell’s advice was: Follow your bliss. But bliss seems like such a big ideal. It’s easy to forget it grows from small pleasures, appreciation, fun, and things that move us. Follow your bliss suggests using joy as a compass. In order to do that, we have to avoid too much scrutinization of what lights up for us and where it might lead. Leave the seed of joy alone and let it grow. If we do that often enough, confidence comes because confidence is a by-product of being willing to allow our own way to be the path forward.

One of our human super powers is our ability to choose how serious or playful we are in our approach to life. Though lightness is harder to choose at times, it helps to remember that being serious is not the same as being dedicated, responsible, caring, thoughtful, or loving. Though we must be engaged in order to create, seriousness is an unnecessary weight placed atop any process. Being too serious encourages desperation; we inflate importance, start pressuring ourselves, and soon want to avoid everything. It is easy to think seriousness is needed to make things happen, but it is lightness that actually expedites and makes things easier.

Find ecstasy in life; the mere sense of living is joy enough.
— Emily Dickinson

When my oldest son was in elementary school, his teacher had the students write a short list of their favorite things. One of the items on his list was: “Ideas that go bing.” He was already keenly aware of the joy of thoughts that light up. An idea that goes bing is an indicator of lands to explore – guide posts to more of what we want.

In Wisconsin, an eleven-year-old boy, Jonah Larson, taught himself to crochet at the age of five from YouTube videos. Crocheting was an idea that went bing for him, one he pursued freely, just for himself. He now has an online crochet business that’s so successful he’s able to invest and save the revenue as well as donate to the Ethiopian orphanage where he was adopted as a baby. He currently has over 2500 orders.  

When I was a kid, my bedroom had two French doors that opened into a small sunroom. The sunroom had six windows, an old braided rug, but little else. At the first sign of spring, I would open the doors and a window or two, and sit on that rug and create something. It didn’t matter whether I was writing, drawing, or constructing a paper bag puppet or building dollhouse furniture from yogurt containers and tinfoil (for a dollhouse I didn’t have). There were no thoughts about others; these things, these endeavors, were completely for me – something I almost couldn’t help but do. And the sunroom came to represent the space, a place, and the time to do whatever pleased me. 

What pleases us is more than just relevant; it is our best path forward. The value of playing and creating for ourselves and for its own sake, is central to sharing and contributing things of value to others. Something that “tickles” us may seem unimportant in the grand scheme of things, but it is always the next step in the right direction.

Violet Bing

Jennifer Paros is a writer, illustrator, and author of Violet Bing and the Grand House (Viking, 2007). She lives in Seattle. Please visit her website.

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