There is a yin and yang to fertile minds. Creative ADDers can have lots of ideas, but little output around those ideas. This juxtaposition is a huge obstacle to overcome if you want to be productively creative, or in other words – you want to actually do something with your ideas, not just daydream about them.
Stop Dreaming and Start Doing
First, we need to acknowledge that we will always be in surplus. The amount of ideas we conjure up will always outweigh our ability to follow through on all of them. We have a lot of interests and curiosities. But we can’t pursue all of them, or we wouldn’t get very far on any of them. Ever eat at a buffet and think: “Well, that was good, but I didn’t really enjoy any of it”?
Secondly, ADDers are constantly interrupted by tirades of distractions that thwart our efforts. When we’re working on one project, something(s) else calls out to us: “What about me!?” Our minds have no filters. Whatever gets in (and it all gets in) seems just as important as whatever we are doing in the present moment.
I struggle with this every day. Each post I write conjures up ideas for two or three more posts. But I can’t write them all simultaneously, and sadly – the inspiration for the other ones often vanishes as quickly as the ideas pop into my head.
One of my clients is an incredibly imaginative artist, whose mediums span a wide range of endeavors. She might be working on a piece of art, then have an idea for a song – it can be a struggle to know where to put her attention.
Another friend of mine is a talented photographer. He’s also an idea generator. I would estimate that he’s probably come up with no less than 20 great ideas for businesses he could start, none even related to the photography business he already runs. But he’s only one guy. If he followed through on every impulse, the business he already has would sink into an abyss.
The biggest problem for people like us is this:
If we chase all our creative impulses, they will stay just that – impulses. Creative people aren’t satisfied with just having ideas, they want to make things and bring their imagination to life.
What do you do when your heart yearns to make something, but your brain is at the mercy of a bountiful imagination and insatiable curiosity, with no reigns on either of them?
How to Make Ideas Happen
1. Let it go
We have to learn to let go of some ideas in favor of others, at least temporarily. Don’t gorge at the buffet table, making yourself sick on a little of this and a little of that. Pick two to three projects you really fancy and stick with them. Enjoy them. And leave the rest aside for now.
I suggest picking two to three projects for a couple of reasons. One project is unlikely to satisfy you – you’ll get bored and fed up. That’s the way the ADD mind is built. Plus, as we’ll talk about in a minute, you need to have an array of tasks to choose from, according to the frame of mind you are in. Working on one project means that you always have to be in the mindset that project requires. Not possible.
Any more than three projects and you’ll find yourself right back there at the buffet table.
2. Pick your priorities according to your frame of mind
This means knowing, intuitively, what you’re up for. Some days are great writing days for me. The words flow almost faster than my pudgy little fingers can two-finger type. Obviously, I choose to write those days.
Other days, my mushy mind can’t string two intelligible words together. (That’s assuming my writing is usually intelligible, but I’ll gamble on that hunch.) Those days, usually after a long day at work, I don’t write. This goes against most writing authorities’ advice – almost all suggest to write every day, no matter what. But screw ’em. I’ve got my process, they can keep theirs.
On the days I have brain-fatigue, I do other things. I do research or do something physical. Like painting or gluing stuff to other stuff. It doesn’t always work out (I haven’t decoupaged the dogs, yet…) but it feels good to do something with my hands.
Figure out what you’re in the mood for, and do that.
Creative ADDers have this funny habit of believing that thinking about something is the same as doing that thing. Like mysterious little imps will bring their ideas to life while they sleep, such as The Blue Fairy in Pinocchio. Sorry my friend, you aren’t Geppetto. You have to carve out time in your schedule to make your magic happen. Preferably, every day – even if only in short bursts. This is where the writing authorities are right – do it every day. It just might not be the same goal you work on every day.
Even short bursts of activity can be super-productive. Check out the Pomodoro Method to find out more about how you can supercharge an hour or two of work time.
4. Manage Distractions
Find a quiet space, turn off your email and phone, blah blah blah. Yeah, we know all that. In truth, we’re most likely to get distract by… wait for it… other ideas! Get yourself a notebook, and quickly jot down those inspirations. Learn to tolerate the impulse to follow those shiny things right now. Just say “no”. Just say “not now”.
Yeah, like me, the inspiration may leave you. That’s okay. See point number one. The really good ones – they’ll come back again if they’re worth it.
5. Go Faster
We ADDers tend to over-think things. Often, we want to get things “just right” and that pursuit of excellence can actually hold us back. Sometimes, we need to just sit down and churn out the work. It might not be our best stuff – but we can always tidy it up later. Again – it’s a mindset thing. Editing and revising require access to a part of the brain that is not friendly to creative thought. For example, it’s pretty sucky to write and edit what you are writing in the same sitting. It makes the whole process arduous and painful. Write first, edit later.
When people are struggling to motivate themselves to do the work, it’s usually because the work feels tedious. The best way to get around this is to go faster and charge through it.
Though you may feel boggled and scattered by having so many ideas, its not a bad thing. It can be a blessing when you don’t give in to the impulse to follow all your brainwaves. Often, you will find that a few of your ideas actually tie together into one great idea. Other times, you will find that some are best left alone. These are my 5 preferred ways of bringing ideas to life when I’m inundated with many of them. I’m sure you guys have some even better tricks than the ones listed here – I’d love to hear them! Share your thoughts in the comments and don’t forget to sign up for free ADD tools in the box below!