Thinking Doesn’t Pay

In the normal flow of the day I get a myriad of ideas that flood my brain, some good, some not so much so. From long experience I muddle over any decision I’m going to make before I go ahead and do anything that might have an impact on my life, even a small one. When I have a decision to make I roll it around thinking about it from every angle, every possible scenario, every aspect that can go right, or wrong. For my everyday life thinking this way has served me well on more than a few occasions-and could have likely served me better on others had I taken just a bit more time.

I don’t hold the same view when I’m imagining for creating. When I’m creating I let my ideas flow in whatever direction they want to go. Sometimes it takes me way off track from where I planned to go. In the beginning I don’t let that bother me. I’m simply getting familiar with my new idea. Some people believe taking that perspective wastes a lot of time. You can wander way off subject and end up doing a lot of catch up work. This may be true, but I still don’t agree that it’s a waste of time. I believe you have to practice letting your imagination be free. If I find myself way off track I keep notes of the ideas I can’t use just then and nudge myself back on topic.

The problem with analyzing an idea at the very beginning is that more often than not you will kill it. When it comes to creating, treating your creative ideas the same way you would a personal or business decision is counter productive. The more you worry an idea the more you suppress it until you finally turn it into a shapeless dead mass.

Imagining versus Thinking

You have to believe that few ideas can cause you harm while they flit around in your mind. Consider it for a moment, imagining a really good murder scene for your novel isn’t going to harm anyone. Go ahead and crack a few heads, splatter the walls, no harm will be done. The same in creating an ad for snowboarding, go ahead and let him fly off a mountain, he’ll land safely if that’s what you want. If he doesn’t maybe an ad about helmets is in order? Whatever you imagine is not put into action, so you can feel free to let that new sports car fit in the living room when you’re thinking up those new ads on home decorating. It’s harmless. They are also a goldmine for new fresh ideas that will make you stand out from everyone else.

Next you must convince yourself that letting your ideas roam off on their own is not a waste of time. More people have trouble with this than they are aware of. We are all on schedules, time is at a premium. We have to give ourselves permission to let our imaginations flow without reprimanding ourselves for wasting time. When you get ideas you should feel you can nurture them, twist them, embellish them to your heart’s content. Feel free to revel in the knowledge that you thought them up. It doesn’t matter if they aren’t plainly useful to you at the moment, or ever for that matter. No amount of free imagining is wasted effort. It should be time that is consciously made available. Time that is without restraints or rules. This is imagining time not thinking time, and it is vitally important in keeping you from becoming static.

Thinking is a whole different process from imagining. Thinking is rational, usually constructive, often productive. Not all imaginings are. Most are fanciful and just plain outrageous. As long as you are sure no one is going to see these ramblings of yours they flow in a never-ending stream. It’s when you begin to think about them in terms of what others will see, or what kind of impact or outcome these imaginings may have on you that you get mired down and the imagining process almost stops. Now you’re thinking, not using your imagination. It’s time to stop and take a break.

Over thinking can be the bane of a creative person. As you nurture your idea you let it grow, let it branch out to endless possibilities. You let your idea spin in your brain without restraining it. You’re not trying to over rationalize it at this point, you’re letting it show you where it can go. What it can become.

If you manipulate an idea you are trying to make it go where you want it to go. You’re trying to fit it where you think it should fit. You’re telling yourself all these things are wrong with it and it must conform to certain guidelines. Pretty soon you have changed it beyond any recognition of the original thought or you have discarded it all together. Even worse it’s probably turned into the same idea as everyone else’s. When that realization hits you you slump down and say ‘I just can’t think of anything original’. What you’ve done is gone from imagining mode to thinking mode. That’s a great thing for lawyers and accountants; though I’ve seen a few who have gotten extremely creative in their work and it’s done wonders for them; not so great for creative people.

You need to know the difference between ‘imagining mode’ and ‘thinking mode’ and make good use of your imagining talents. Thinking is wonderful and necessary but it can be very restrictive. Don’t be afraid to let loose and imagine something totally off the wall. In the creative community these are the best ideas and the ones likely to get you the most attention. If you begin to analyze your project from every angle and decide to change something because you think you may have gone a bit overboard it’s a good sign you’ve switched to thinking instead of imagining. Step back and take a deep breath. If it still doesn’t feel right then definitely make the change, but if it’s just that niggling ‘what will people think’, go back and push it.

Nurture your imagination, stop thinking it into nonexistance

Give your imagination the free time it needs to work and to play. Don’t restrict yourself to whatever rules you believe you have to stick to. You use your imagination, it’s your tool. You are a creative person, thinking doesn’t pay.