Wrangling a Lightning Bolt

Posted in How-To, Observations

lightning bolt
I’m feeling energetically giddy again.  I feel a great sense that anything is possible, good, and has promise.  And I want to do everything at once.  It’s energy overload.

This can be tremendously helpful in my creativity, but if I don’t learn to harness it better, I’ll get sidetracked by everything rather than making a quantum leap in impact for one thing.

I’ve been reading Scott Belsky’s Making Ideas Happen.  I get so excited when an idea resonates.  The excitement starts with the thought, “I want to do that.”  And, because I’m fearful I’ll either forget the idea or lose the excitement driving it, I’m compelled to do that right now.  And I’ve stopped reading and started on that.  Then, I’m so excited about that, I want to do this.  And before I know it I’m simultaneously working on this.  Or this.  Or this.

Raw creative energy at its finest, manifesting itself as a thousand-ideas-at-once.  When it hits, it feels like being sidechecked and dragged around the ice by a sweaty, growling hockey player with no front teeth.  When the ride’s over, I’m breathless.  What a rush!  But am I any closer to the goal box?

Figuring out how to deal with this is a lot like asking how to wrangle a lightning bolt.  Here’s a trick that works for me:

Whenever I’m trying to focus on one task that’s generating a lot of other ideas I want to remember but don’t want to process in the moment, I take out a 3×5 index card, or if I’m feeling particularly frisky, a letter-sized page folded in half lengthwise.  Having a narrow width to write on (3″-4″)  seems key, so that I can keep it just to the right (or left, for you southpaws) of what I’m working on.

When I get an idea tangential to my chosen focus, I force myself to simply write it down without acting on it, and immediately return to what I was doing.

Simple, no?  Yeah, try it sometime, bub.

The real magic behind the trick is the immediate return to my chosen task.  By capturing the idea nugget, I mitigate the urge to deal with it for fear of losing it in the deluge of the idea storm.  I can have my daydream moment (or half-hour, as just happened while writing this–I never claimed to be perfect) and get right back (more or less) to the task at hand.

Photo by maggieandcharles.