The Creative Process

Where Do Ideas Come From?

You know I can’t answer that, right? The title is just a teaser, like the ubiquitous click-bait headlines: “Doctors Say Don’t Eat This or You Will Die!” or “Insanely Easy Way to Pay Off Your Mortgage!” Most of us want to avoid death and reduce debt, so we click. Then we wish we hadn’t. This post isn’t like that. I promise. While a simple, definitive answer to the above question may not be available, we can explore the topic.

Ideas are everywhere, free for the taking. There exists a cosmic repository where they reside. We all have access once we learn a few simple, brain-cleansing tricks. Oops, this is starting to sound like click-bait again. I’m not so sure about the cosmic repository, but I do believe in keeping our antennae up.

Ideas reside within the hum of life: bits of overheard conversation, a fluttering leaf, the swirling water when we flush, a gliding hawk, wafting fragrances of food vendors, the colors of springtime, or the desolation of winter’s bare branches. We are constantly processing information, sensory as well as explicatory. We try to make sense of random occurrences, and we try to solve the problems of life. This conscious effort expended toward solving problems and coming up with ideas often blocks our ability to receive insight and solutions from the vibrations that surround us.

So the process does take on a “cosmic” or metaphysical quality, but we don’t have to escape reality to become more creative. What we need to escape from are the thought processes that block our ability to receive inspiration. Have you ever birthed a good idea from trying to come up with one? Do they plop out of the idea canal, wet and squirmy, as a result of our determined pushing? Maybe. Sometimes. But I think more often than not our best brainchildren come when we least expect them, fully formed (or at least at the toddler stage), via immaculate conception of the mind.

Immaculate means extremely clean, neat, tidy; unstained, pure. Unfortunately, these adjectives don’t describe the average mind. If you’re like me, and I’m sure you are, it’s a damn mess up there. Sensory overload, compounded by worries and the stress of daily life, is the problem. We’re sifting through clutter looking for what’s not there. The ideas we need can’t get in when there’s no clear entrance. Thinking about your appointments, getting the kids to their recitals and practices, your upcoming presentation, and worrying over all the things that could go wrong effectively adds junk to that already overloaded attic space.

So just stop thinking, at least once a day. This can be accomplished through a variety of ways: meditation, performing some mindless task such as sweeping the floor or mowing the lawn, listening to music, or simply sitting and observing—my personal favorite. This is when you forget Bloom’s Taxonomy. Don’t analyze, evaluate, compare, contrast, synthesize, or predict. Just let your senses do what they were designed to do. When you provide five clear channels—instead of hundreds filled with gibberish—who knows what might get through.

The best part? That idea you needed slipped in without your realizing it. Later—maybe when you’re in the shower or on your morning jog or in deep repose or coming home from work—she’ll present herself, smiling and ready for a hug.

Where do ideas come from? Everywhere and anywhere. We just need to clear a path and receive them with open arms. They become ours even though the universe provides them. For these gifts we should be thankful.