Does anybody else experience this? You’re in the midst of cooking a meal, having a bath, eating or brushing your teeth and all of a sudden, part of your brain thinks, “I’ve just had a brilliant idea that must be turned into reality RIGHT NOW!” So, you try to rush through whatever mundane thing it is that you are in the midst of doing, before your brain forgets the brilliant idea, or loses enthusiasm for it. It happens to me all the time.
It’s as though there are actually two brains inside my skull. One is trying to take care of bodily necessities, for survival and the other one takes any lull in the excitement as an excuse to create some. At any moment that isn’t full of action or activity, the creative half of my brain decides it’s time to hatch a new scheme, or plan, or piece of writing.
Usually, ideas are not delivered in an orderly, serial way either. The usual experience is that a flood of ideas comes – five different ones at a time – all of which need to be attended to now. The fact that the flood gates open and a deluge of creative ideas is unleashed usually heightens my fear of not capturing any one of them.
The creative brain can be quite fickle. If you don’t pay immediate attention to the idea that has just been delivered, it can sulk and make it impossible for you to access that nascent idea at a later time. Access is denied. You cannot, for the life of you, even remember why it was so exciting at the time. Can there be any more frustrating a feeling as knowing you had an interesting idea, but not being able to entirely remember what it was?
My family often witnesses me frantically dashing toward the computer, fumbling to open Evernote on my iPhone, or scratching around for a pen and paper. During those moments, they know that to attempt to speak to me, engage me in conversation, or discover, through any means of communication whatsoever, what it is I am dashing to capture is all about, is an utterly futile and self-defeating pursuit. I will only grunt, wave them away or get cross, if I have to stop and explain, at the seemingly extreme risk of the idea evaporating entirely. They know me well enough, now, to simply stand back until the brainstorm abates.
My practical self feels guilt about this. It’s very rude to cut people off without explanation. Sometimes, they are trying to say something important, which deserves my full attention, but I fail to give them my time, to listen and respond. I feel bad about that. I am also aware that it is also important to maintain body and soul and to complete those little mundane life tasks that have to be done. What’s so special about the latest idea anyway? They come all the time. Surely missing one won’t matter.
There’s the nub of the problem. You can never tell which idea is truly great and which, if missed, would cause untold regret. That is partly insane, of course, because if the idea is great, it ought to recur to you. Flashes of brilliance that herald true genius ought to, under normal circumstances, assert themselves repeatedly, until you do something about them. The fear of forgetting just one idea is kind of irrational, if I were honest with myself.
Like many creative people, though, I’m not completely honest with myself. My two competing brains conspire against me to make it so. They thrive off their ability to have me at their beck and call, whatever their competing agendas dictate. It doesn’t matter if I am late, tired, in a hurry, physically exhausted or I am trying to sleep, just a little longer. Whatever time of day or night that an idea hatches, I will be made aware of it, regardless of my conscious state and I will have to respond.
Maybe it’s just me. It could be that nobody else has this feeling. I do, though. It is both wonderfully liberating and simultaneously incarcerating. Having a single brain, I think, would be much easier. On the other hand, having a second, unconscious brain that is content to mull over different problems, in the background, while I do other things, is quite good, too. It isn’t much to ask to pay attention to it when it brings something from my unconscious, that it has been working diligently away at for some time, to my conscious awareness, is it? It’s the least I can do.
I have no way of knowing if other people live like this and consider it to be normal. I’ve always been this way. I had always assumed everybody else is the same. Sometimes I wonder, though. There are an awful lot of people who can produce little evidence of such sudden ideas occurring to them. Maybe they ignore them, or simply don’t find a way to capture them, in time. Perhaps the ideas never come at all, or very infrequently.
Do you have two brains?