Brain on fire with too many ideas?
from our Sunday reading series - a weekly blog post (subscribe here)
You’re not alone.
Many artists and creative entrepreneurs have come to me over the years with concern that they should focus on one activity. Akin to a confessional, they start explaining how they have this, that and the other idea. It seems that they expect me to agree that they would be better off focusing on one thing.
The ‘confessional’ seemingly comes from a societal tendency to pigeonhole others. In an attempt to understand what it is that you do, many people unwittingly mentally file you into a tidy box. Never mind the overwhelm that can come with having many ideas, this societal inclination can make people think they’re supposed to stick to one thing.
Well, I have good news: for many creative beings, juggling multiple balls in the air is your natural way of being. How do I know? Because I’m the same. I’d be bored if there wasn’t a variety of projects. The trick is keeping on top of them and understanding how they fit under the overall umbrella of your career.
A painter I know with a strong studio-based practice also has an administrative job, teaches creative workshops and arranges meet-ups. Rather than viewing activities as being neatly boxed and separate, they can be of benefit to one another.
Consider his creative workshops, aimed at fellow artists. A paint supplier has expressed interest in providing materials. Although the artist wouldn’t have readily contacted the company to get complimentary materials for his individual practice, doing so as the founder of a network of artists was a no-brainer. This connection stands to directly benefit the artist’s own practice down the road, too, in getting exhibition sponsorship and the like.
Also, being involved in a variety of projects can help you see the wood for the trees. By switching your mind from Activity A to Activity B, when you return to A, you’re set to look at it with a fresh, and arguably more objective, perspective.
Perhaps the biggest challenge with having a multiplicity of ideas is staying focused. Work out how each one fits into the bigger picture. If it’s not the right time to pursue something, record it in a way that you won’t forget the concept, and will be reminded of it in future. Prioritising what’s important, adding relevant activities to the mix, and balancing them is paramount.
The long and short of dealing with having a lot of ideas is not to ignore or drown in them, but to pursue those which keep your creative brain happy and engaged, that make sense for you. Only time will show how varying projects feed into one another.
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