Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Saving Your Ideas

As an artist, you can have too many ideas. Often we find that we get inspired to do a million projects at once, and the hardest part might be sitting down and focusing on one idea. It's been shown that the brain cannot actually truly multitask (it cannot process two things at once - you actually have to shift back and forth between multiple tasks), so the more tasks or ideas or projects you are trying to juggle, the less focused you'll be on any single task. Monkey especially has a problem with this, and will have to-do lists that fill up entire sheets of paper.

While having too many ideas is generally a good problem to have, it is still a problem. How do you know what to focus on?

Over here at Monkey + Seal, we write it all down. Seal is an enthusiastic fan of journal writing - she's been writing nearly every day for the past ten years. Monkey is less organized, jotting down ideas on old envelopes, post-its, or any other scraps of paper and stuffs them into his sketchbook. The reason behind our cataloging of ideas is that many times it's just not the right time for the idea.

Whether we have more pressing projects to finish (either freelance work, or other deadlines to meet, or a project for a specific event), or perhaps the idea just isn't fully flushed out yet, we don't want to simply let the ideas dissolve in the foggy murks of our memory. We collect and cherish these ideas, but acknowledge that maybe the timing isn't right, or we don't yet fully have the entirety of the idea developed. Sometimes we'll even start a project, and realize this a bit too late, and then we'll shelve it for the time being.

When we do have a bit of time, or are looking for new inspiration, we'll often revisit the old. By looking back through our records, we sometimes find ideas that, while they did or didn't work at the time, it might be the perfect project now. Additionally, revisiting your old "best work" can inspire you in new ways.

Recently Monkey has started to revisit a few projects that he had started nearly two years ago. While his laboriously hand-screenprinted book, at the time, was the best he could muster, he is now slowly working on rewriting the entire thing in order to add more depth and will eventually republish it as a fully illustrated work (or collection of works).

Even if something was your best work, you've lived and experienced new things and grown since then, so reinterpretations and reworkings are always new possibilities. New interpretations and new directions can spring up when looking at older work and older ideas. It also allows you to take an objective view regarding themes or patterns that crop up in your collection of works. What was the running theme of your work a year ago? three years ago? your lifetime?

By documenting all of your ideas to live on and incubate through pen and paper, or digitally, you can now figure out which ideas (just a few for now!) that you should currently focus on. Which ideas are the MOST compelling, or the MOST pressing? Follow your instincts and cultivate those few projects that you can wholeheartedly follow, and you'll have made the right decision.

No comments: