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The Mitch Hedberg problem: creativity & capturing

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  • The Mitch Hedberg problem: creativity & capturing

    Now that I'm starting to trust my system a little more, I'm getting good at capturing ideas rather than going and exploring them immediately. As GTD predicts, I have freed my mind of worries, and become far more creative as a result.

    This is a problem.

    I have captured 353 ideas in the past two weeks alone.

    Mitch Hedberg, the late great standup comic, said it best:

    I sit at my hotel at night, I think of something that's funny, then I go get a pen and I write it down. Or if the pen's too far away, I have to convince myself that what I thought of ain't funny.
    I am having to do a lot more convincing lately, lest I spend my entire day writing ideas down instead of doing them. Does the flood ever stop?

  • #2
    I personally found that it is enough to mix some "doing" between a lot of thinking. This is the normal way often showed in the arts eg. a song-writer thinking all the time about a particular song and in the last scene of the movie he writes it down in one big sitting. It has always been like this, only GTD makes us much more aware of this. Are you accomplishing more meaningfull work than before starting GTD or less?

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    • #3
      I don't think you want the flood of ideas to stop. Creativity is good.

      But it does become less intrusive, and you become more able to judge which ideas are likely to be worth pursuing.

      Katherine

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Cpu_Modern View Post
        I personally found that it is enough to mix some "doing" between a lot of thinking. This is the normal way often showed in the arts eg. a song-writer thinking all the time about a particular song and in the last scene of the movie he writes it down in one big sitting. It has always been like this, only GTD makes us much more aware of this. Are you accomplishing more meaningfull work than before starting GTD or less?
        I think the movie image of creative processes is pretty bogus, actually. While the songwriter might be able to get it all down in one sitting, that's not really an option for creators of longer works. Nor does the "don't start until you're inspired" notion work particularly well.

        Katherine

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        • #5
          Does the flood ever stop? Well, yes and no!

          YES: I, too, found tht I was very engaged with emptying the psychic RAM in the early days of my GTD implementation and ideas flowed freely and often. But as time went on, I either became more discerning about what I captured or I just had less to capture as aresult of the continuous capturing.

          NO: The flip side of this is that you will never stop thinking and capturing umtil your life is over. We are such wonderfully creative beings and the joy of thinking keeps us motivated to capture it all in our GTD systems without fear of losing that potentially great idea.

          The thing I love about my Someday/maybe list is that I can stuff it all in there and review it regularly duirng the Weekly Review to process. I can then choose to delete it or process it further.

          Enjoy!

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          • #6
            I think David Allen says in GTD Fast that the way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas.

            I have the same problem you do, and I've had to learn to put most of my ideas on my Someday Maybe list. Otherwise, you just end up cluttering your project/next action lists with things you don't have time for.

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            • #7
              Congratulations on freeing your mind!

              I, top, had a lot of great ideas, which went onto Someday/Maybe. I've since deleted many of those ideas, as I've realized how silly they are in retrospect.

              Keep the ideas flowing. I see nothing wrong with having a few hundred ideas in your Someday/Maybe list. Or a few thousand.

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              • #8
                I've been finding the best way for me to "fix" my creativity if I'm in a mood to not be having it is to focus quite hard on *doing* things in my NAlist.

                I don't know how to explain it really, but I frequently have trouble with an abundance of ideas when I'm not doing the things on my list, or am ignoring it. I don't know if this is really the same problem that you're having, but for me, the angst of having "too much to capture" really for me, I've learned, is that I'm upset that I'm doing too little NAlist work, and not progressing through my goals.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Jay Levitt View Post
                  I am having to do a lot more convincing lately, lest I spend my entire day writing ideas down instead of doing them. Does the flood ever stop?
                  heh heh. I find that the flow of idea oscillates, sometimes more sometime less. I try to capture them quickly, and then get back to getting things done. As others have noted, sometimes those ideas may get pruned later. It's helpful to keep clear phases (collect vs. process, etc.)

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                  • #10
                    I've found that the creative flow comes in spurts. I'll get a rush of ideas, then everything's mentally quiet for a few hours or a few weeks.

                    I like the Mitch Hedberg quote. My current capture device is the voice memo on the Motorola Q or a Space Pen and piece of paper in my pocket. Out of four items I capture, I often discard at least one by the time it comes to enter the item in my system.

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                    • #11
                      Creativity in Spurts

                      I had a very similar reaction as I got started with GTD. Over time, your ideas certainly never stop completely, but as they're captured, you probably won't generate 350 new projects every two weeks.

                      I've had a solid GTD system in place for almost two years now, and I still have times when I'm scribbling on the backs of paper towels because I can't make it to my ubiquitous capture tool in the other room fast enough.

                      Merlin Mann of 43 Folders had a fantastic podcast about "The Beauty of 1.0" where he encouraged listeners to take those good ideas that they've had sitting on the backburner and at least start SOMETHING. I know it's sort of obvious, but this was a transformative moment for me.

                      I'd make sure you have a big stack of blank project lists and at least write out a Next Action (or future action) for as many ideas as you can. I doubt anyone has time for 353 projects a week, but you can always randomly pick, say, five of those sheets, and at least get them to 1.0.

                      I'm a big proponent of having lots of projects running at one time. So long as your deadlines for external projects are captured in your calendar, and you review frequently, there's no harm in having two pages of Next Actions for your own ideas. After all, if they're you're ideas, they're probably FUN projects that you're passionate about! I have five pages of Next Actions right now, but I'm never overwhelmed because all but ~25 are things I'm happy to do.

                      Many times an old idea I had is transformed a couple years later into a whole new idea, and I'm glad I can go back and look at my paper towel scribbles.

                      Marina

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                      • #12
                        Oh, you, creative people!

                        Oh, you, creative people! 350 fresh new ideas per week! 18200 fresh new ideas per year! Over one million fresh new ideas in your life! Thomas Edison would be jealous!

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                        • #13
                          I think what's happened is absolutely beautiful. Really. This is the stuff that GTD is meant to do, IMHO. I have 1700 blog ideas in my "pickle jar," and counting. I've gone through a process in which I captured more at first, then got more focused re: what's important/valuable (as Katherine pointed out). But I can't say this strongly enough: CAPTURE IS WORK! I take a lot of notes (books, ideas, networking and sales calls, etc.) and I admit that when I sit down to process them I sometimes feel resistance. What does this mean? I have to think about it - maybe they're not worth it? That said, air-tight capture is crucial to freeing the mind. "Did I write that down?" should leave your vocabulary!

                          As AP might say, "*Very* shagadelic, baby."

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