by James D. Witmer
There is a question every creative person – from writers to inventors, gardeners to entrepreneurs – hears. It is asked by friends and fans, family and newspapermen alike.
It is: How do you get all your ideas?
“They honestly didn’t know,” writes Isacc Asimov. “To them it was an impossibility to even think of one. … Could I say I don’t know? When I go to bed, I can’t sleep for ideas dancing in my head. When I shave, I cut myself; when I talk, I lose track of what I’m saying, when I drive, I take my life in my hands. And always because ideas… are spinning and twisting in my mind. Can you tell me, maybe, your trick of not getting ideas, so I, too, can have a little peace?”
Humorist/writer SD Smith wrote, “I …sometimes feel like all I do is think. All ideas all the time. …It’s a constant battle to avoid letting this incurable condition overwhelm me. How do you manage your drive/ambition/idea-manufacturing?”
This is a more insightful question; the answer will tell you much about the person you ask. I answer it in part to know myself better.
To be at peace, I must consider each idea a gift. These gifts are part of an ongoing relationship with my Creator, not a natural resource to be milled into goods. Some come and go like a breeze, others I can scribble down for savoring and development.
Having too many things in my head causes anxiousness and a demanding spirit, because I fear losing something. Writing ideas down – or letting them go – prevents madness by helping to empty them out.
I must embrace the duties which keep me from my ideas. Loving my wife and children takes creativity of the highest sort. So does working my job, loving my friends and neighbors. Yesterday’s affection cannot be recycled. Today’s bread must be fresh.
Michael Card’s Scribbling in the Sand has helped me move beyond submitting to these practical vocations, to treasuring them as venues for art-as-worship.
My list of ideas is long, and the time for executing them is short. But after years of crucifying selfish dreams, I am thankful for it. The gift of ideas could be withheld, but it is not. The opportunity to live as a “little Christ” is pure mercy. Reconciling them needs only time, and that, too, is a gift.