You are not permitted to download, save or email this image. Visit image gallery to purchase the image.
Q So where do your ideas come from?
The world was born out of chaos. And the world was a pretty large idea so maybe ideas come from juxtapositions of mess. Research (mine) shows that ideas do not generally lurk on shelves showcasing dust, at the back of the pantry or with the spiders in the to-be-folded pile. Nor do they race to fill in the vacuum left by Marie Kondo’d nouveau Zen calm. A tidy house, a tidy mind, empty of ideas. There is something about catching an upside-down sentence in a tea-ringed, tattered outdated New Yorker magazine. Something that wants to fill any temporarily clean counters with clutter again.
Q But where do ideas come from?
The factory next to the stork baby factory. No. It was long thought that the right brain did everything, brainwise, about ideas, but research (more than mine) shows that both sides of our brains have these fancy things called superior temporal gyri that basically flash excitedly when they get the merest whiff of an insight. It then takes right brain creativity and left brain bullishness to embed the thing. Just like it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a whole brain to gestate an idea.
QThe ideas, though? Where do they come from?
Well, you have to pay attention. That doesn’t mean flicking through a social media scroll, or opening 16 tabs with a slight variation on the subject you’re researching. Which is a shame, because it is very easy to spend hours, no, days, doing just that in the guise of useful behaviour. Unfortunately for your scroll thumb and peanut brain, it’s more effective to give specific, continual times to what you’re interested in developing ideas around. Read, look, smell, taste with the idea of your idea in mind. If you immerse yourself in poems, you’ll be more likely to recognise the inkling of one when it comes along. If you want to design clothes, it’ll help if you obsess over interesting silhouettes. BTW, people who are young enough to understand that abbreviation, this is one reason why some other people are freaking out about you watching 13 Reasons Why.
Q So, ideas come from other, related ideas?
Yes. And no. In trying to trap one, it’s also really powerful to distract yourself. Go running in your active wear with your handbag dog. Or do something outside your regular routine. Something you’d never do. Dust those shelves? Meditation works because our brains can only think in positives and want to clutter themselves like benches when you empty them. This fact has not been verified by the opening of 16 scrolled tabs.
Q But I want a reliable source. Where can I find ideas?
Coffee. Which is the answer to many things. Steven Johnson, in his TED talk, makes a great case for coffeehouses as places where people connect the dots that lead to realisation of ideas. In the 1650s, people were on to a winner just from swapping their beer breakfast beverage (cleaner than the water) for coffee. But it’s not just the choice of stimulant over depressant. It’s the conversing, the communal embrace. Ideas are nothing until they’re tethered and it’s easier to tie them down together.
Q So why are they such slippery things, ideas?
Sometimes they just don’t want to show. It’s not personal. It’s just a thing. Everything has its time. And there’s no point handwringing over it, either, like Publius Ovidius Naso, aka Ovid the Roman poet, who said, "A new idea is delicate. It can be killed by a sneer or a yawn; it can be stabbed to death by a quip and worried to death by a frown on the right man’s brow."
A modern response? Liz the Hawea Flat poet says, "Harden up, Ovid."
Q What do you call a deer with no eyes?
Q And a deer with no legs and no eyes?
Still no idea.
Q So, any idea what happened to all the ideas?
No, sorry. Still no idea. Bad jokes. Blank canvas. Empty head.