To control your stream of ideas (in order to ensure mental clarity and prevent madness), there’s one simple remedy: write them down. Don’t keep ideas stored in your mind where they can either become shadows and disappear to the background, or distract you by staying close to the surface of conscious thinking, which can drive you mad. Out of fear of being forgotten, ideas remain near the surface, rather than gathering dust in the far corners of your memory. Near the surface, they constantly urge you or appeal to you for some form of interaction, which is very uneasy and can lead to mental breakdown.
There are several reasons why we keep ideas to ourselves and do not release them from our minds by putting them in writing. Sometimes we don’t have the ability to write it down instantly, like when in the shower or driving. Another reason may be an overactive inner critic, putting you down or making you worry and feel anxious about being ridiculed by others, thus stymieing ideas before we even have a chance to write them down.
Pat Flynn, whom I consider an inspiration and mentor, recently wrote a book “Will It Fly? How to Test Your Next Business Idea So You Don’t Waste Your Time and Money”, which came at the perfect time for me, as I was figuring out how to make some headway into the idea economy with ihavesomanyideas.com.
Part 2 of the book is called “Development Lab”, and after reading the chapter “Germination”, a coin dropped. He explains how our minds can function in several modes, for instance a create mode or an edit mode. But one can also image a bored or frustration mode, right? For his mind-mapping exercise, he explains the create and edit modes:
“Create mode is when you’re imaginative, creative, and open to new ideas. Edit mode is when you are logical, regulated, and analytical. Most of us constantly switch back and forth between the two within a given piece of work, like when we write an email. You write a small part, read it, make edits, and then write some more.”
“The major issue is that your editor brain gets in the way of your creator brain. It stops the flow, which can remove the potential of amazing thoughts that you didn’t even know exist in your head from ever coming out. You need these thoughts to surface during this experiment, but your editor brain can get in the way because it’s too focused on making everything right or perfect. Thinking puts your editor brain into the driver’s seat.”
This accurately explains how I manage my inner critic, the edit mode, by putting the creator brain in the driver’s seat, while the editor brain waits for its turn.
“Thinking puts your editor brain into the driver’s seat.”
Let that last sentence process thoroughly and really sink in, because it’s important to realize that there’s a difference between thinking up ideas and just letting them come to you naturally, without much effort – in a state of flow.
Here’s how you get into the flow of idea-generating. Start easy, with ideas at the surface. They are dying to get out anyway, so that should be easy. Get yourself a piece of paper or a notebook and something to write with. Yes, a pen and paper work best – no distractions, and they activate the create mode. Then make a list of every idea that pops up, without judgment, criticism, or fear of how others may perceive them. If you have to, promise your editor brain it’ll have its turn later on, but it needs to shut up and be patient first. Then, a single line per idea will do.
It also makes wonderful practice to repeat this exercise daily, keep an Idea Journal and accumulate as many ideas as possible. Because many ideas will lead you to that one awesome idea!