THE DING

There's a mental phenomenon that occurs when I'm working. An idea pops into my mind and kind of hovers around in there as if it's waiting for me to pick it like fruit from a tree. Ideas like these are fully formed, complete and finely detailed, and I'm usually excited by their unexpected appearance. Thing is, there are usually lots of other ideas in my mind already, and to pick this new one means consuming it, and I can only consume one idea at a time.

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Furthermore, these new ideas come with a little 'Ding!', that is, a kind of alert that lets me know they've arrived. They tend to just drop into my mind and go 'Ding!' despite the fact that a lot of tasks are already in my mental queue awaiting their turn to be attended to, tasks like emails to be answered, articles to be written for clients, posts to compose for Facebook and Twitter, online meetings to attend with clients and colleagues, things to be read... All these are the legitimate mental activities in which I engage during the course of any particular day and then along comes this unscheduled 'Ding!'

So what do I do? I have to make a decision: either attend to the unruly Ding! or put a pin in it and keep focused on the well-behaved, orderly and scheduled mental tasks I've lined up for the day. I have done both at various times, and have found that each choice (obviously, huh?) brings a different result.

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When I attend to the Ding! at the time that it Dings! I find that I become absorbed in the layered, complex type of creative idea it tends to be. I always enjoy the exploration of these ideas, because they seem to hook nicely into the higher-level layers of thought I enjoy so much like strategic thinking, critical thinking, use of metaphor and logic, all wrapped up in a kind of imaginative play as I give form to the idea. The Ding! is an idea for the beginning – or continuation – of a creative project, and some part of it is usually totally original; if not the idea itself, then some aspect of its execution. The reason I tend to be excited when I apprehend the Ding! is because it signals a period when I can be completely authentic in my thinking, and I just love how the Dinged! message rolls itself out in a kind of auditory way, bundling itself up in my regular thoughts, but possessing enough of its own bright quality as to be distinguished as its own peculiar kind of thought. And I don't actually hear it with my ears, it's more an “inner” hearing, and though I can “see” the idea, it's more like an interior perception, a vision. You know? The Dinged! idea is kind of mystical, though entirely practical. It's one of the inexplicable qualities with which we humans are endowed.

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The Dinged! idea usually invites a lot of exploration, and while I enjoy it, I also feel that I'm doing it at the expense of the other pressing tasks I've put on hold, all of which have tight deadlines. There was actually a time which I felt that the time I spent doing the intensely creative work that came as part of the Dinged! message was “stolen” time, and so creative work became a kind of clandestine activity. However, the creative work always turned out to have its own rewards, and not just just interior, emotional release, but it also benefited my career for a long time to come.

If I decide not to tune into the Ding! I find that by the time I do get around it the bright, sharp quality it had when it first Dinged! has faded a bit (though not completely), and I liken this to the difference between picking a fruit at the point of ripeness and eating all that goodness right there, and letting the fruit sit for a while. Anyone who has picked a ripe mango, or apple, or strawberry from a branch and eaten it on the spot would know what I'm talking about. I'm from the Caribbean, and we do this all the time back home. When you eat the fruit after its finest moment has passed – maybe after letting it sit in a deep freeze for a bit - it's still good, but it's not as good as it was before. Not only that, the emotional “skin” of this creative fruit, that part of the fruit that makes it enticing and irresistible (and where a lot of its nutrients happen to be) has faded a little, and some of the intricately filigreed details of the idea have gone as well.

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Other times, when I finally turn my attention to a neglected Ding! I find that it has disappeared completely.

This does not mean that not attending to a Dinged! idea when it Dings! is bad. There're good reasons for putting a pin in a Ding! Both choices are valid, however, not responding to the creative Ding! delays my entry into my vision, for though the arrival of the Ding! is unscheduled, it's not unsolicited. It's a response to an idea that's been sitting in my head for a while and which I had decelerated to idle mode while I dealt with other, more immediate concerns. There is, however, a way to learn how to receive the Ding! no matter when it shows up.

Written by Margaret Brito

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