Thursday, February 25, 2010
The utensil drawer in my kitchen recently reached critical mass. Grabbing a wooden spoon had become an unwelcome exercise in frustration. When I finally reached my limit and tackled the long overdue "sort and purge" necessary to reclaim the space, the reason for the chaos became immediately clear. There were some seldom-used tools which could be relocated from prime real estate to a less convenient locale, along with a certain amount of true junk, things no longer serviceable that needed to be thrown away.
But the primary culprit was a mass of colorful twist ties from bread bags: tiny, innocuous pieces of wire and plastic, mindlessly tossed into the fray with an expectation of usefulness at a future time. And they can be useful; when you need one, nothing else will really do. So they continued to collect until they ruled the drawer. Once the problem was revealed, it took surprisingly little time to restore the natural order, giving the utensils a neat place to live and drastically reducing the annoyance level during the hour before dinner.
It occurred to me, looking at the snarl of twisties impinging on that important space, that this is what had happened to my creative mind recently as well. I found myself completely stuck because I had so many ideas--so many small, shiny threads of possibility--that I couldn't do anything at all. They were all jumbled together in a messy, indistinguishable knot, rendering each one effectively useless until they could be disentangled and made sense of.
Enter two recurring heroic characters in my creative life: Pencil and Paper. I set aside a quiet hour to download the disorderly heap of ideas into a notebook. Predictably, the first few drafts were a mess! But as I sorted through the pages again and again over the next few days and continued to write and sketch--combining, refining and defining the ideas--inspiration began to emerge. There also, I found a good many twist ties--good ideas for some time for someone, but not for me, not now. I tossed those out, gathered the choice parts that fit my own artistic vision, and began to focus my attention on specific concepts that motivated me to create.
Here's how I've discovered you can keep your artistic mind clutter-free on an ongoing basis:
1. Carry a small journal in your bag just for the purpose of capturing inklings of ideas. Try to record every flash of inspiration in some form, every picture that pops into your head. They are so often fleeting vapors that will escape if allowed! Trap them when they come.
2. Once a week or so, sit down with your book and cull through the ideas. Discard the twist ties! You know if something fits your own artistic vision or if it's just a nice idea. Be true to yourself. Record ideas that have promise in a different notebook for further attention later. Things that you are particularly excited about should be sketched out and put in clear view, tacked on a bulletin board for instance, for immediate development before you lose enthusiasm for them!
3. The fertile soil of your happy brain is left clear for the next concept seed to take root, or at least land safely without being swallowed up by weeds--or twist ties.