A new idea is often represented as an incandescent light bulb glowing over someone’s head. Now that the old Edison bulbs are banned in favor of the CFL ones, we’ll have to think of something new. ‘Cause those CFLs look weird, and they’re slow to reach full brightness, while new ideas usually come flashing into your brain fully formed.
Or so you think.
• Ideas begin in your subconscious mind.
It’s that mysterious part of your brain where memories, impressions, images, smells, and bad old jokes are stored. You see, hear, smell, feel or read something, and it kicks off a fast conveyor belt carrying associations (Think of Lucy and Ethel working in the chocolate factory). When your subconscious sees the germ of a good idea, the conveyor belt jerks to a stop. What then?
• Your conscious mind plucks the “proto-thought” off the conveyor belt and holds it up to inspect it.
At this point, what you have is an amoeba-like blob: an association and a thought kind of oozing together. If it seems as if it might jell into something useful, the mind starts integrating it (or “mooshing it around,” as we creative professionals say) with other thoughts to create an idea that has form and substance. A creative idea, a business idea, whatever it might be. Perhaps “THE IDEA,” perhaps not. If not, it’s back to the conveyor belt.
• Coming up with “THE IDEA” takes a little time.
People (left-brained people, usually the account people) must think all you have to do is drop in a quarter, the machine goes whirr-whirr-zing, and at 12:59 p.m., “THE IDEA” chunks out of the chute. Not so.
• The “monkeying around” time is essential.
It takes place while you’re sleeping, showering, walking, watching TV, reading a book or newspaper, playing games, doing something unrelated to “working on” THE IDEA. When it doesn’t come is when you’re sitting rigid at the computer keyboard feverishly thinking, “OMIGOD, what am I going to do? Only 35 minutes to go! Come on, IDEA!”
• Now, deadlines for ideas are a good thing.
They focus your mind. They’re helpful, as long as they’re not so close you can feel their hot, humid breath on your neck. Nothing closes down the creative brain like time pressure. On the other hand, sometimes your very first idea is “THE IDEA.” Not often, though.
• So where do ideas come from?
Out of your dank, dark subconscious mind, through your collected associations, up into the conscious mind, out into the daylight, then into the monkeying around process. Then, you devoutly help, they will transmogrify into just “THE IDEA” you need.
• So don’t short-cut the creative process.
Good ideas are like shy little bunnies hiding in the shrubberies of your mind. If you rush to grab them, they’ll high-tail it into the woods. But if you sit down quietly some distance from them, eventually they’ll come out and reward you with a wet sniff with their cute little bunny noses. That’s my take, anyway.
Need good ideas? Come and find me. I’ll be sitting near the shrubberies.