Rainbow Feathers – Developing an Idea

Photo on 1-25-13 at 6.32 PMIt started as a handprint. But with a flip of his wrist he moved on to the ‘riskier’ idea.

“What are you doing, Griffin?” I ask.

“I need rainbow feathers.”

Of course you do. Me too. And for the next few minutes that’s what we did, tried to make rainbow feathers where there were none.

It’s messy business. There’s a lot of trial and error involving water, fresh paint, mixing feathers on the skin, painting feathers on mommy’s arm and asking mommy to add blue to his arm because “It’s what I’ve been missing.”

It even moved to an undiscovered phase – molting – which is what happens in the shower when the rainbow feathers melt into a multi-colored river.

Yes, I was concerned for the state of my house. Yes, I was doing everything I could to silence the voice in my head reminding me “You have carpet!” “It’s too late, he should be in the bath by now!” “If I go along with this will he paint the furniture next? or the cats?!”

Yes, it was actually work to be playful in this improvised moment of idea development.

Fleshing out an idea is messy:

  • It strays from the original goal.
  • It involves risk.
  • It doesn’t respond to deadlines.
  • It requires collaboration.
  • It uses things beyond their original intent.
  • It has potential to break things (including personal property and personal assumptions).

And it’s worth it. Mind you, the “it” I mean is not the product, like rainbow feathers, the “it” is the process, the living of your life, like mine and Griffin’s. Playing with an idea is playing within your life.

Encouraging play is the true magic of rainbow feathers.



  • Do you tend to quiet the voice that says “Hey, let’s do this!” or the voice that says, “Hey, don’t do that!”?
  • How long do you flesh out an idea?
  • When do you need to start “seeing results”?
  • Do you tend to support others developing ideas more than your own? or vice versa?
  • Why?
  • How much information do you need before you commit to playing with a new idea?



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