People who know me have often commented that I’m ‘organised’, ‘tidy’ even, and more recently, they’ve tended to use the word ‘focused’.
This puzzles me because I would just love to be any of those things but I know that I am not!
In fact, I probably berate myself at least once a day for wasting time being ‘disorganised, untidy and decidedly unfocused’, for being a bit of day-dreamer in fact!
Going away to boarding school at the age of 11 was a nightmare for me – I never seemed to be in the right place at the right time, I never seemed to remember to read the lists on the notice boards which would have helped me to be more ‘organised’ and I always felt that the little locker where we kept our personal possessions was in a state of chaos . . . it had been OK at home, with four much older sisters and two older brothers as well as my parents to keep me on track, to make sure I arrived at the bus stop on time and so on. Without them I was lost and as a result, I seemed often to be in trouble.
And so, in the end, I resolved to become ‘organised’. I made lists, I kept records, I made lists of lists and lists of lists of lists! Which is why I have a reputation for being ‘organised’ . . . and also why I feel slightly guilty when I catch my mind wandering apparently aimlessly, wasting time . . . or is it?
I'm coming to suspect that the wandering mind is a necessary pre-condition for creativity.
But I’m not at all sure that I would call it ‘thinking time’. Thinking, in that sense, is a left-brain activity. Allowing one’s mind the freedom to meander so that ideas can germinate is more often a function of the right side of the brain I believe.
Friends have also often commented on the fact that I tend to be an ‘ideas’ person and my school reports often mentioned that I had a ‘lot of imagination’ and it didn't always sound like a compliment. And as far as art and design is concerned, I’m never short of inspiration – just short of the time to carry out my ideas! Often, if you asked me where I get my ideas or my inspiration, I would have to reply that I don’t really know but that I think it’s something to do with my tendency to day-dream.
I've been toying with the idea that a certain amount of day-dreaming is vitally important for an artist or designer. Maybe it’s the means whereby we can bring a little magic into our work? Perhaps it’s what enables us to step into the shoes of our potential customers and make work they can connect with?
I’ve been wondering whether there’s actually any proof to back up my theory. It could, after all, be just one of my ‘imaginings’! But a few minutes before I began to write this blog post, I read through some tips for designers from yourindies.com and this is what jumped out at me –
‘Everybody wants to live the dream: if a designer can sell someone just a little bit of the dream, they will go home happy.’
A friend and I were browsing through some old photos of me as a child one day. She picked out one that I had always hated; it was a studio portrait photo taken at a time when I was somewhat chubby, to say the least. To my horror, my friend told me she liked it, and worse still, the reason she liked it was because she could see from the photo that I was a dreamer. I was mortified! It seemed that all my efforts to become an efficient, organised, focused person had been in vain and my day-dreaming self was exposed for all to see!
So, of course, I just tried even harder to be tidy, organised and focused and that’s why I still tend to give myself a hard time when I catch myself letting my thoughts wander away from the task in hand!
Which is pretty stupid. Because I'm coming to believe that we all have that imaginative, day-dreaming, creative child inside us, full of wonder and curiosity and asking ‘what if . . . ?’ and that’s something we should value!
Of course there are times when we need to be ‘organised’, ‘tidy’, ‘focused’ - but not all the time!
We all need to give our day-dreaming selves a chance to meander down unknown highways and by-ways, following our curiosity wherever it leads us, asking questions . . . and, like a four-year-old, asking even more questions!
That's the best way I know to generate those supremely magical ‘Aha!’ moments that we call 'Inspiration'.
(Just make sure you don’t do it when you’re behind the wheel of a car!)