I don't know if you can tell, but I have a lot of ideas.
Some of them are pretty interesting, useful to other people or entertaining in some way. Some of them are dark, illegal, gross or otherwise unpleasant.
The vast majority of them are very, very stupid.
Whenever I write about topics such as ideas, I always look up the definitions of the words, just to make sure that what I'm saying is going to be understood the same way I intend it. It's very easy to speak and not be heard and likewise listen and not hear if you're not clear about the language.
According to the dictionary, an idea is a thought or suggestion as to a possible course of action. A thought is an idea or opinion produced by thinking or occurring suddenly in the mind.
I always love finding tautology in definitions. Essentially, we could take away that a thought and an idea are the same thing, that having a lot of thoughts is synonymous with having a lot of ideas, but that doesn't sound right, does it?
I have been lost in thought plenty of times, but being lost in ideas is a whole other dimension, and I'm realizing that being lost in ideas is what has made me the person I am today. One thing I'm always grateful to my parents for is that as a child, no matter how weird, stupid or illogical my projects were, they made their best attempt to help me make them realities. Among these involved a very short lived stint in kick boxing, a couple poorly designed flying machines and the creation of a giant cardboard stegosaurus.
I have been praised for being able to come up with an idea and see it through to the material world. Typically, when I say I'm going to do something, offhandedly or not (sometimes more so if it's offhandedly), it will, in one way or another, manifest itself. That's what is so sacred about creativity; you're pulling something from within yourself, from some other form of reality, ultimately, and giving it a tangible form that can be utilized in the material world. To me, that's straight up magic.
I think a lot of people struggle with follow through, and I don't think that's untrue for myself, but I think in terms of ideas and creation, I work on a larger scale. As a comedian, I've tried to put together shows that haven't worked, tours that have fallen through, all sorts of ambitions that are ultimately very short lived. All it means to have good follow-through is trying enough things to have some of them be seen through to the end.
Honestly, my methodology is mostly "path of least resistance." I start a lot of projects, but I only continue with the ones that require the least amount of effort, or are the most interesting and engaging to me. I also live by one very, very simple principle: If I don't enjoy something, I stop doing it. This means I get a lot of opportunities, and because I don't expend energy on things that I don't like, I usually have enough to engage in the things that I do enjoy. Unfortunately, it also means I'm an awful employee and don't work in the current social system, which means I may very well be fucked in old age.
I also struggle with getting distracted by all these fledgling ideas, sometimes even the idea of starting an idea is enough to make me forget what I'm supposed to be doing. I'm not sure where I'm going with this. Even writing just now, I got distracted. I was starting to struggle with where I want to take this article. Usually when this kind of distraction hits I set it down and pick something else up for a bit. Since this is all one article for you, you don't see me set down my computer and go fumble with a guitar for awhile or clean my bathroom while I try and sort out the different things going on in my head.
I guess that's how thoughts and ideas differ and even interfere with each other. I have this idea for this article that I'm writing, but I have a lot of thoughts before, during and likely after. Ideas tend to have some kind of purpose attached to them, thoughts might but I don't think it's an intrinsic quality of them. You can have thoughts for no reason and with no end purpose.
I have interesting ideas, dark ideas, useless ideas, and stupid ones. Regardless of what they are, I will do my best to try every one of them within my ability.
One of the reasons I think we hit creative blocks is because as artists, we tend to criticize what kind of thoughts we have.
"This isn't funny."
"This painting sucks."
"This sculpture requires too many dolphin spleens."
Block occurs when we start wanting to have a specific kind of thoughts. The reason creativity seems like madness is because it comes as one of those neat little thoughts tucked into a bouquet of assorted weirdness, memory and in-the-moment stimulus. Trying to focus too hard on it won't get you any where.
You could liken it to foraging. A thought is a tree in a forest. You go looking for your jokeberries on the comedy shrubs, pluck them all off and are stuck looking for tiny, unripe little buds that you try to squeeze more juice out of. You can do that all you want, but you'll still have to wait for the plant to replenish itself before anything else good comes along.
Rather than focus so tightly on that particular berry bush, you can go looking elsewhere. Elsewhere might end up being making music, cardboard dinosaurs, or taking up a hobby that you'll give up and rip into pieces. You might stumble on something else you want to incorporate into your creative diet.
I'm not really sure why that metaphor went like that. I've had this tendency to talk like a children's book recently. We'll see how long that lasts.
When it comes to your thought process, there really are no bad ideas or bad thoughts. That sounds like something out of a corporate sales meeting but bear with me. We try to discard our negative, unpleasant, dumb thoughts, partially because we don't want to think of ourselves as negative, unpleasant and dumb people. You aren't your thoughts any more than you are your body, you little Grebe.
The reason that there are no good or bad ideas/thoughts is because all of them are part of a process. Individually, no, they aren't all useful thoughts or pleasant and they may make you worried about yourself. No singular thought encapsulates your thought process, but the more you start picking out at one, the less you'll notice all of the others that surround you.
It's smart to start recognizing what each kind of thought you have is, and acknowledge that it exists. I find this works particularly well for anxiety. Whenever I'm having a lot of nervous, social anxiety thoughts, like "does this person like me?" or "was that a stupid thing to say?" I just acknowledge that I've just thought those questions rather than try to answer them. Usually they return to the swarm of other thoughts and I go about my business. Whenever I start getting distracted, rather than go looking for the original thought, wherever the fuck it floated off to, I go downstream. Sometimes I lose it forever.
Sometimes, I actually make it to the end.
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These articles focus more on psychology or how individuals function in a society. They're about as well thought out as anything else on the internet, and there's probably typos.