I am a creative person.
Ok, so I think that goes without saying to be honest. I write, paint, build, design… It’s inbuilt, unstoppable, like breathing for me. I’m not blowing my own trumpet here (basely put, I’m not flexible enough to even try that). I’m like many people out in the world, it’s a trait I share with many; Unfocused Creativity.
Why “Unfocused Creativity” – because I do more than just write. I paint and draw, I create digital images. I build 3D models of things in 3DS Max (currently I’m building a flying saucer, both the outside of it, and the inside). I design things, mundane things like the layout for my study down to new ways of doing things in the kitchen. Ideas just come, unbidden most of the time.
Sometimes too many come at once, idea overload if you will. My brain ends up being saturated by them. They keep me up at night, whisper to me, distract me – nag me even. Sometimes they come so thick and fast I struggle to retain even a fraction of them.
Sound a little crazy?
Well it is a little bit – I have a hyperactive brain, one that struggles to slow down and process information. Over the decades I’ve learned how to deal with it, how to stay focused so that it’s possible for me to finish something without leaping to the next idea. I actually finish things these days much to amusement and relief of those who know me. Actually it’s a relief to me as well. Being able to say, I’ve done that I can now move on.
I think most of us struggle with idea overload at times, and it can be maddening. Holding on to an idea, keeping it alive… Well, that’s the trick isn’t it?
I use a physical journal – one that I carry around with me at all times. I write ideas in it – anything that comes bidden, or unbidden, to my creative mind. Story ideas, recipe ideas for dinner, design ideas, dreams (I have very vivid dreams), thoughts, feelings, whimsies, sometimes just a message…
Anything and everything.
I tried very hard to limit the book to just story ideas, keep a separate dream journal, keep a recipe book, a design journal – but frankly that was never going to work. Things flash in my head so quickly at times if I don’t write them down I’ll lose them.
A good friend gifted me a blank journal, and I filled it up. I don’t even think I’ve had it a year yet. I filled it up, with scribbles, thoughts, randomness. Things that popped into my head, and left leaving just fleeting shadows. It was scary to get to that last page, to realise I had in my hands a book that in essence shows how my mind works. (I’m sure a few people and psychiatrists would love to get their hands on it – and don’t worry, I have treated myself to a new one).
But why write them down?
In this day of fantastical hand held technology why take a step back and use a pen and paper? Thousands (maybe even millions) of apps exist for smart phones that allow you to make notes, in the literary sense, audio, pictorial. And there are just as many apps and ways to make sure you never lose that information, that’s stored, synced, and available where ever you are. Hell, it would even make it easier to find things, because you could categorise them. I can think of a thousand good reason to use technology for this – in fact I used to use technology for this. Used to… but categorising, polishing the raw text did something to those ideas/dreams/randomness. It made them cold.
But something about the physical act of writing things down, or drawing things out, the eclectic flow of an idea, the physical rawness of it – keeps it fresh and alive. Having them in no order than how they came to me helps me get back into the mind-set I was in when I had them, it helps me to bring my mind round and the idea back in focus.
It’s not completely disorganised, I date each entry into the journal. I put the time down as well (well, most of the time). It helps with cross referencing.
But it is very random. And there’s something about that randomness that helps keep the ideas alive.
It’s unlikely I’ll ever make the orange, hazelnut and chicken soup idea I noted down (but if you swap out the chicken for chocolate you get a nice pudding). But the dream I had about the elves hunting a group of men, and the choice one of them made, and the child…. Oh yeah, that one will get written out. At some point.
And that’s the big problem, because with all the good will in the world, not every idea is going to see the light of day. Just some of them. Time is the limiting factor. Even if I were to concentrate on just the ideas from the first journal, what about any new ones that come? What happens to them?
Maybe that’s why ideas need to be written out, need to be seen in all their glory and rawness, need to be seen for what they are and what they can be and why sometimes they cannot be. Sometimes the act of getting an idea out, expressed rather than forgotten, helps to make space for the one that is burning like fire in your mind that won’t leave you alone. Helps you to put your focus where you want it to be so you don’t spend all your time being overwhelmed.
Maybe it’s also showing yourself some respect as well, or rather the creative you some respect. The act of noting the idea is a way of saying to the creative you that you respect your own creativity enough to take it seriously, that you respect it, that you acknowledge it.
Sometimes, that’s all an idea needs.