The Compulsive Creative

When I was a youngster, I knew a fellow who wrote television scripts. He would complain to me bitterly that when someone met him for the first time and found out who he was, they would say: “Where do you get those crazy ideas?” They honestly didn’t know. To them, it was an impossibility to even think of one of them. So what could my friend say?

He used to talk to me about it and tell me: 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, situations, dialogues are spinning and twisting in my mind.

I can’t tell you where I get my ideas. Can you tell me, maybe, your trick of not getting ideas, so I, too, can have a little peace.

Isaac Asimov, Dreaming Is a Private Thing

Creativity is a hard thing to control. It’s elusive nature guarantees that the question “Where do you get those ideas?” is commonly heard by those who have learned to harness their creative thinking abilities. The Asimov excerpt above resurfaces in my mind any time I hear that question.

As hard as it is to manifest, it’s even hard to explain. Those of us who work in creative fields or live by imagination rarely have an answer to this question. We don’t come up with the ideas, they present themselves—even when we don’t ask for them. Ideas are always there, popping in and out of existence in our minds.

This constant torrent of ideas is not always ideal. Being subject to the constant barrage of mental activity can be exhausting. It siphons off creative energy, like a leaky faucet or a hole in a dam. Even if there is an infinite reservoir of inspiration, the mere sound of the drops can drive you crazy.

I can’t suppress this current. I can’t put a plug in it or turn off the faucet of my mind. I don’t know if I want to if I could—I’d be afraid of not being able to turn it back on.

It’s this compulsive nature to explore, imagine and create that makes the human mind so powerful. Our brains are working to put the pieces together in unimagined ways, whether we want them to or not. Our creativity is always on, and there is no off switch. This is our blessing. And our curse.