(Part of) My Life’s Work

A friend, the very talented musician Drew Michael Blake, tweeted some Dylan lyrics: “I’ve got a head full of ideas that are driving me insane.”

As I replied to him, sympathizing and agreeing and, like, totally identifying with him, another thought occurred to me.

I wrote him back:

@sdsmith_ @drewble You describe my own state of mind quite well. Trying not to let them drive me insane is my life’s work.

And this is true. Maybe it’s true for many/most people who are sort of what we call “creative types.” Maybe it describes a lot of people. Most people are creative, after all.

Anyway, I do sometimes feel like all I do is think. All ideas all the time. Not always good ones and few that issue in any result. But I do feel like it’s a constant battle to avoid letting this incurable condition overwhelm me. (And I’m really not talking about bad ideas/thoughts here, just things I want to do, create, contribute to, build, support, write.)

It really feels like some of the most important work I do. Because not going crazy over all these ideas is somewhat helpful to my family and others, including me.

Do you ever feel this way? How do you manage your drive/ambition/idea-manufacturing?


  1. Isacc Asimov wrote a short story, Dreaming is a Private Thing, around this phenomenon. Fun if you can find it.

    First I must consider each idea a gift. These gifts are part of an ongoing relationship with my Creator, not a natural resource to be milled into goods. Some come and go like a breeze, others I can scribble down for savoring and development.

    Having too many things in my head causes anxiousness and a demanding spirit, because I fear losing something. Writing ideas down – or letting them go – prevents madness by helping to empty them out.

    Finally, I embrace the duties which keep me from my ideas. Loving my wife and children takes creativity of the highest sort. Going to work, loving friends and neighbors likewise. Yesterday’s affection cannot be recycled. Today’s bread must be fresh.

    Michael Card’s Scribbling in the Sand helped me not only submit to these practical vocations, but appreciate them as venues for living-art-as-worship. (See my blog for lengthier praise of this book.)

    My list of ideas is long, and the time for executing them is short. But after years of crucifying selfish dreams, I am thankful for it. The gift of ideas could be withheld, but it is not. The opportunity to live as a “little Christ” is pure mercy. Reconciling them needs only time, and that, too, is a gift.

  2. Thanks, James. Beautiful perspective. This is key to the whole operation and goes further than I did with my vague “don’t let them get you down” post.

    Good word. In Christ, family life (and all of life) is about losing and losing and losing and by that gaining everything.

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