Strokes of genius, flashes of brilliance, inklings of inspiration. Do those phrases intimidate you?
Here’s the thing. We all have those moments when a thought or notion comes seemingly out of nowhere and sparks a new idea, gives a fresh perspective to a task you need to complete or sends you off in a direction that provides a solution.
So, then it’s all clicking and perhaps you get some recognition for your great idea or perhaps it even becomes something huge that really changes the course of things for you. What happens next time you come up against a problem you need to solve or you’re ready for the next project to be born. Do you feel pressure to continue to have those flashes of inspiration for another great idea? Does that stop you sometimes from moving forward?
My friend Brian told me about a wonderful talk that author Elizabeth Gilbert gave on this very subject, and it was my flash of inspiration for this article. She had come off of her explosive International bestseller, “Eat, Pray, Love” and found herself in that zone of “it's exceedingly likely that my greatest success could be behind me.” So, now what? How does she continue to do the thing she’s supposed to do, write, without the looming expectation of genius? The gem I took from her insight was this, “protect yourself from the result of your work. Don’t let the end result stump your progress.” When you have 19 minutes, watch her TED talk. It, in itself, is a flash of brilliance.
I recently saw the beautiful film, “Bright Star”, about the short life and love of poet John Keats. This man was both tortured and buoyed by the ebb and flow of his flashes of brilliance. The film very effectively depicts the quieter time that was then, when the insane distractions that we face every 10 seconds today were still so gloriously far away. His genius came to him in his silence which he lived in for hours upon hours. He wrote, “Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter.” I really related to that because the truth is, for me, many time the sparks come to me in my quietness as well.
Singer Taylor Swift said, “Thoughts come in involuntary moments, which then become ideas for lyrics and melodies.”
That’s a great lesson. When you keep an open mind while you’re in the midst of, well, life, that tiny little inkling may come to you and if you’re paying attention in that state of open awareness, you’ll catch it! In every episode of the medical drama, “House”, diagnostician Dr. John House, who solves the most impossible of medical mysteries, gets his 11th hour stroke of genius in the midst of doing something completely unrelated. He takes that small inspiration which sparks a fresh perspective on his huge problem and then solves the case. To bring this into your everyday world, here are some ways to stimulate and capture your flashes of brilliance:
- Give yourself quiet moments – shut everything else down and be with yourself. Nature and animals sometimes help to quiet my mind.
- Start the day with a stream of consciousness – journal whatever comes into your mind without judgment or a plan. Stick with it for five minutes; just write, don’t think.
- Keep an ever-present notepad – in your bag, by your bed, in your car. I find that the spark can flash out as quickly as it flashes in, so write it down as soon as possible. It could just be a word or phrase so that you can expand on it later.
- Have a bounce session – bouncing ideas off other people can bring you the fresh perspective you need to find your stroke genius.
- Read or watch things that are unrelated – ideas come in those involuntary moments. The back of your mind is powerful place, and if you keep it open to what’s entering the front you’ll be amazed at how solutions will present themselves in unexpected ways. I’m inspired by quotes, photographs, visual arts and news headlines. Whatever gets your brain buzzing, tune in to those.
- Be open to life circumstances – as a student of life your mind can be open and awake to the possibilities of brilliance in the moment. Pay attention.
And remember; don’t focus on the end result. So many times the outcome of just letting the strokes of genius, flashes of brilliance, and inklings of inspiration happen in due course bring about an even more satisfactory, and surprising, conclusion, whatever that may be.
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Cindy Yantis is the Thought Changer Blog creator & curator. She is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles. For more info: CindyYantis.com