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I had no idea… I had too many


At any given moment, how many things float around in your head? Half-baked thoughts or fully fleshed out. Random thoughts or purposeful. Thoughts that make you wonder “Where the heck did that come from?” Thoughts that you really hope you didn’t say out loud.

 

Regardless of how or why these thoughts float through our minds, they typically ricochet off each other, generating mental white noise that can be both an asset and a challenge. So, what to do with all this noise.

 

In a recent online post, award-winning author Dr. Nora Gold talked about the power of writing things down. Among other reasons, she suggests, writing things down helps clear the mind and can help you process your thoughts and emotions. I concur entirely.


As my poor beleaguered screenwriting students will tell you, having heard me preach a thousand times, I am a huge fan of writing things down. Some of my vigor on the subject stems from my advancing age and diminished memory. But since childhood, writing things down has been my modus operandi, particularly when I am trying to be creative.


Writing things down gets them out of my head where they otherwise remain ephemeral. I find it incredibly challenging to work with all the ideas that bounce around in my head. Writing them down allows me to process and develop them, determining what is worth keeping.



As well, when working on a project or having a goal, such as when I was Creative Director and Writer at an advertising agency, my first ideas tend to be less useful or less interesting than they could be. My first ideas were always the obvious choices and, in some cases, bordered on cliché. Given my predilection for puns, they could also be simply sad and firmly planted in the Dad Joke category. Writing those ideas down allowed me to get them out of my system and put them aside, making room for better ideas.

 

And like in any good brainstorming exercise, writing them down allowed me to see underlying patterns, repeated themes and motifs that my mind was throwing at me but expressed poorly. Did I keep going back to the same well of thought? If I did, perhaps it was something I could probe more deeply to find the truth and express it more clearly and effectively.

 

Sometimes, however, it is not that the idea is bad, but simply that I don’t yet recognize its value. Writing them down in a safe place ensures that I don’t lose the immature kernel of thought that may not mean much to me today. My days are filled with random brain farts that often mean nothing in the moment. Fortunately, out of sheer habit, I write these things down in the belief that my brain farted for a reason.



Many years ago, my brain gave me the phrase “living in aquaria”, a punny (told you) riff on the James Brown song Living in America, which featured in the film Rocky IV. Having no idea what to do with “living in aquaria”, I wrote it down in a notebook and moved on with my day, free of that thought and knowing hundreds more would take its place.

 

A couple years later, while going through my old notebooks, I stumbled across that scribble and like being hit with a 2x4, I knew what it meant and how I could use it. “Living in aquaria” was the prompt for what would become my first feature-length screenplay: Tank’s. It was a parody theme song for an animated love story between two fish in a pet store. It was West Side Story meets The Incredible Mr. Limpet or Finding Nemo. (I told you. I am old.)

 

Sometimes, we aren’t yet ready for the ideas that pop into our heads. We don’t yet understand their potential value to us. If we don’t write them down, we will probably never know. In my case, that particular brain fart ended up helping me win Best Screenplay – Animation at the Nashville Film Festival in 2014.



WRITE IT DOWN!

 

If you are looking for ways to make the most of the gaseous ideas that emanate from your brain, reach out to the prodigious brain farters at Nicholas Lemon Productions, who have never met a cerebral discharge they didn’t want to play with.

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Feb 16
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

This was such an inspirational read. I used to just live with my brain constantly swirling with thoughts and ideas until I learned that using my brain as storage was likely why I felt too energetically depleted to make significant traction in any capacity. When I started making it a regular practice to journal my thoughts and to capture my ideas/questions/musings on paper (or sometimes in voice memos to myself on WhatsApp), I reclaimed so much mental, emotional and I don't think I'm exaggerating to say also physical bandwidth and capacity. My brain can rest, as you said in your article, knowing I've no longer assigned it the task of trying to retain everything. I thought I was just reading…

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