Flexible Focus #50: The Art of Idea Capture

by William Reed on April 21, 2011

Capture Your Ideas, Capture Your Dreams

The quest to capture ideas is ancient and universal to all cultures. It is part of our DNA. The Native American Dreamcatcher bears a synchronistic resemblance to the Mandala in this illustration even down to the 8 sections. In Asian cultures the Mandala is often rendered in circular form. It’s meaning and beauty are evident to us in the physical form, and in the name, Dreamcatcher. We may need to be reminded that to capture your ideas is also to capture your dreams.

Until you start capturing your ideas on paper, or rendering them in some physical form, you may never realize what an astonishing amount of your experience floats by and is lost in the disconnected drift of time.

We need to notice, and to help others become aware of the significance of our insights, because each of us can offer another perspective on life, another degree of flexible focus. Artists, writers, and teachers cultivate the sills to take the raw material of experience and shape it into forms which enchant, entertain, and enlighten the people who engage with their works.

This is nourishment for the mind and food for the senses. Yet you need not be entirely a passive consumer of other people’s creations. You can cultivate the habit of creating your own forms of expression, if you just capture your ideas, dreams, and experiences.

Make a Wish and Write it Down

The best way to do this is to write down your ideas as they occur. We have introduced various tools for capturing your ideas, both digital and analog methods for capturing and organizing your ideas in a Mandala Chart. But even if you know how, you may not be motivated to start until you understand why.

If you start with your dreams it is easier to kindle your motivation to capture them and make them come true. Why not start with a Wish list?

You can organize it into 8 categories, as Takezawa Nobuyuki has done in a Japanese publication called the Mandala Chart Wish List, designed as an insert for the Mandala Chart Day Planner. It contains sample Wish ideas in each of the 8 categories of life, as well as space to write down up to 300 wishes of your own. This was inspired by the Barbara Ann Kipfer’s book, The Wish List, which contains close to 6,000 wishes as an inspiration, a virtual to do list for life.

The very process of keeping track of wishes is valuable, both our own and those of the people we care about. Reading a list of this length can stimulate your own imagination, but ultimately it is the process of creating and cultivating your own Wish List which will set your dreams in motion. The process of adding to and reviewing your Wish List has power.

All too often we succumb to inertia, shorten our sights and our insights, and compromise our dreams by giving up too easily on that which calls to us, that which could be had with a little imaginative effort. As Charlie Chaplin said in his classic film LIMELIGHT (1952), “Life can be wonderful if you’re not afraid of it. All it takes is courage, imagination, and a little dough.”

Revive an Old Tradition

The idea of capturing your ideas into a notebook is a old tradition which seemed to fall out of favor as published books of other people’s ideas became commonly available. I wrote about this tradition, the custom of keeping a Commonplace Book, begun in the Italian Renaissance, in an article called Make Your Mark, and how we can revive it today. Notebooks have been kept by the great geniuses in the arts, sciences, and invention, and it is no coincidence that those who kept the most copious illustrated notes were also those who were most prolific in their chosen field of endeavor.

Ideas in their early stages are like shapeless lumps of clay. They do not take shape until you knead them, stretch them, mold them into shapes that you see in your imagination, and bring them to life.

Michelangelo (1475~1564) described the process in this way: “In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to other eyes as mine see it.” It is hard to imagine a more perfect description of dream capture.

So capture your ideas on paper in a notebook or wish list, organize them on a Mandala Chart, and share your dreams with those who can help you, and whom you can help in return. In our highly connected world, in a world where we can literally collaborate in the clouds, where we can cross barriers of language, culture, and geography in an instant, this should be easier than ever before.

Don’t simply admire the Dreamcatcher, become one/

Related Articles

Previous post:

Next post: