Responding to the Creative “Ding!”

by Maggie Brito, PhD

When I attend to the Ding! at the time it Dings! I become absorbed in the layered, complex type of creative idea it tends to be.

Sometimes when I’m working an idea would pop into my awareness and kind of hover, 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 loads of other ideas in my mind already, and to attend to this new one means I have to take time away from the others I’m already attending to.

These new ideas come with a little “Ding!”, that is, a kind of alert that lets me know they’ve arrived. They tend to pop into my mind and go “Ding!” despite the fact that a lot of other ideas are already there, lined up in a mental queue, awaiting their turn to be attended to – essential tasks like emails to be answered, writing to be done for clients, content to compose for Facebook and Twitter, online meetings to attend, articles to be read – all these are the legitimate mental activities in which I engage during the course of any working 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, scheduled mental tasks I’ve lined up for the day. I have done both at various times, and have found that each choice brings a different result.

When I attend to the Ding! at the time it Dings! 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 thinking I enjoy so much as a creative writer, such as metaphor, critical thinking, logic, all wrapped up in a kind of imaginative play as I give form to the idea.

The Ding! is usually creative, and some part of it is totally original; if not the idea itself, then some aspect of its execution. The reason I get excited when the Ding! arrives is because it signals a period when I can be completely authentic in my writing. And I just love how the Ding! rolls itself out in an auditory way, snuggling up among my regular thoughts, but possessing enough of its own bright quality as to be distinguished as its own peculiar kind of thought. I don’t hear it with my ears; it’s more an “inner” hearing. And though I can “see” the Ding! it’s with my inner vision. You know? The Ding! is kind of mystical, though entirely practical. It’s one of the inexplicable technologies with which humans are endowed.

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The Dinged! idea usually invites extended exploration, and while I enjoy it, I also feel I’m doing it at the expense of other pressing tasks I’ve put on hold, all of which have tight deadlines. There was actually a time I felt that the time I spent doing intensely creative work on the Ding! was “stolen” time, and so creative work became a kind of guilty, clandestine pleasure that was even more enjoyable because I felt I was doing it in stolen time. However, the creative work always turned out to have its own rewards, and not just enjoyment and 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 to it the bright, sharp quality it had when it first Dinged! had faded a bit. I liken this to the difference between picking a fruit at the point of ripeness and enjoying all that goodness right there, and letting the fruit sit for a while. Anyone who has picked a ripe mango or apple or strawberry and eaten it right there and then would know what I’m talking about. I’m from the Caribbean, and we do this all the time – pick a ripe fruit from a branch and eat it while it’s warm and filled with sunshine. When you eat the fruit after its finest moment has passed – maybe after letting it sit in the fridge for a bit – it’s still good, but not as good as 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 substance happens to be) has faded a little, and some of the intricately filigreed details of the idea have gone as well.

Other times, when I finally decide to turn my attention to a neglected Ding! I find that it has dissipated entirely, like a burst bubble.

This doesn’t mean not attending to a Ding! 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 I’ve been mulling over for some time and which I had de-accelerated to idle mode while I dealt with other things. The Ding! would pop into my awareness after being formed in the silent unknown on my unconscious.

Lately, however, I have been tending more and more to receive the Ding! no matter when it shows up.

Language of the Dispossessed

The language has become insufficient

for the expression of my experience.

I find no words

to articulate the truth of my being,

and so my experience cannot be known,

even to myself.

 

Because my experience is deeper than my known concepts allow,

the articulation of my experience is taboo.

 

Sometimes, I feel the language is my enemy

that causes me to articulate pain –

the language is very good at articulating pain –

and even a word like love

does not express what I know it to be.

 

Some words I painfully dig up from my depth

already provoke strange looks,

as if I have ventured into unholy territory,

or maybe it is that those

with whom I have had the misfortune to commune

continue to trade

the same old powerless concepts among themselves.

I suppose that might happen

to those who have not yet become aware

that language has not organically

occurred on our planet,

but is a creation of the savvy

to serve the needs of the powerful.

 

It’s no coincidence,

perhaps,

that the rich + powerful

always seem to have larger vocabularies

than the dispossessed,

who are dispossessed

precisely

because they do not know

and do not have the words to know

that the paradigm

in which they live

and labor

and endure the hardest conflicts

supresses

and makes invisible

the truth of their experiences,

expresses only the ideas of their lords who despise them,

and leaves them struggling to speak,

because everybody knows

poor people don’t talk good.

 

 

The Power of Journaling

I had been journaling since I was a girl, but I started doing it in an intuitive manner around 2008. I find it tremendously empowering. I love to review my entries over the years and inspiration in my thoughts. True, some entries are cringe worthy, but I find many of them remarkably insightful. I comment on my entries on little stickys that I paste on the side of the page, so I could see how my perspectives change over time. I notice that ideas which seemed disconnected came together. They bore fruit, by which I mean that my ideas developed to such an extent they became useful. This has shown me that journaling is a discipline that matures over time. I did not understand the value of this practice when I began in earnest in 2008, but I have definitely come to understand in now, and I can clearly see how valuable my journals are to my personal development, to my business and to my writing.

My Why

I named my company after one of the most charasmatic leaders of the Haitian Revolution of 1791 – Pierre Dominique Toussaint L’Ouverture. The word L’Ouverture roughly translates as “the opening” or “he who opens.” I called my business L’Ouverture because I want to open my clients to possibilities. I want them to be open to the possibilities which inhere in writing, in producing a great book and becoming a knowledge leader. I want them to be open to their brilliance, to be superstars. What kind of writer is a superstar writer? One capable of using the language to make possible an emancipatory alteration in the consciousness of their audience. This is my mission, and why I think of my business, L’Ouverture, as freedom.

Bustin Out!

I’m busting out of my limitations, many of which are self-imposed. I think we were all born inside peculiar boxes that were pre-made for us. We were born within a box of social status, or a box of gender, or a box of race, or within a box of a nation or a particular community, and we inherited the limitations of our parents and our communities. And that’s okay, because we do need a framework when we’re growing up, something that orients us to the world around us. But there does come a time when we need to reshape our perceptions of the world and step out of our boxes. Writing, inscribing ourselves upon the face of the culture, is one medium by which we begin to recognise our limitations. When we are serious about our writing, we are forced to examine how we think about our experiences. For many of us who write, busting out of our boxes is one of our goals, because authentic, thoughtful and honest writing has the potential to shift our perspectives in many ways. Especially our perspectives about ourselves.

Pure Writer

I am a pure writer, meaning I don’t do anything but write. Mine is a complex writing space, with overlapping academic, artistic, trade, philosophical and spiritual sensibilities. I write into these sensibilities from an angst-ridden space of anger, frustration, indignation and sorrow. My attempt to reach for joy, forgiveness, happiness, peace keeps me writing.