Sorting the Good Ideas from the Snoozers
While I currently have two books in the works that I’m readying for release, I started working on an idea for my next one several months ago. I use that word “working” pretty loosely. All I did was watch a bunch of movies on a theme and start keeping my eyes open for interesting and relevant material. I just wanted to test a few things by doing this preliminary “work”:
- Was it an idea that could sustain my interest for the amount of time it takes to write a book?
- Was it an idea that grew on me and was strengthened with each new bit of information I received?
- Did daydream or I wake up at night with new insights and ideas relating to the idea?
Each of these in its way addresses the unconscious side of conceiving a creative project, or as I like to call it, the creative beast. You throw stuff into the dark spaces at the back of your mind and see if something with a life of its own starts to emerge. It works because while it’s technically “your” mind, you can’t really access it in any clear way, any more than you can call up the details of childhood memories at will. In fact, I see the unconscious as accessing me, if anything — the sum total of my experiences and ideas plays out through and as “me,” often with little intervention on “my” part. I’m compelled by it, because it’s so much larger than the little tiny bit of “me” I have access to at any give moment.
So, when it comes time to conceive a project the unconscious tells me what’s exciting. It tells me what I’ll love working on. It tells me what’s interesting from a cultural perspective. It tells me if there are holes in my ideas or if they need to evolve into something else. What’s even more mind-bending is that it makes me think I’ve thought up my own ideas for testing in the first place. All I have to do is keep feeding it, and it does the rest, more or less. I basically just create some space for it and step aside.
I’ve had many ideas over the years that failed to thrive during this testing phase. I couldn’t even tell you about them because they so completely failed to gain momentum. There’s also the thought-provoking prospect of good projects your unconscious doesn’t want you to see, but that’s a post for another time.
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