We are fascinated by this elusive quality, difficult to grasp, evanescent yet concrete, or rather, parent of concrete things – whenever the birth of ideas is followed by the realization (and it is not said, as we know).
Yes, by the way: exactly, how are these blessed ideas born?
Andrew Norton, a Canadian filmmaker, also asked himself and tried to find an answer with Where do ideas come from ?. In this video, several creatives, from the visionary director David Lynch up to the writer Susan Orlean, passing through radio and TV journalists, artists and even children, tell how, in their opinion, ideas spring up inside our heads.
Creative sparks: instructions for use
The first news is that there is no agreement on how to produce ideas: everyone describes the process in his own way. Creativity escapes any type of boxing.
Lynch, for example, talks about fragments that slowly recompose in a puzzle in his head, until they take a precise shape.
Susan Orlean talks about an idea that suddenly breaks the creative block following the conclusion of all her work. Robert Krulwich, an American journalist, instead perceives it as a kind of itch, a nuisance in the back of the mind, which forces him to think about it and rethink it until the idea arrives.
For others, inspiration comes following an external stimulus, often unsettling, to which the mind responds by multiplying it.
This stimulus can come from an out of place object, a velvet armchair in the middle of the street, a shoe on the sidewalk, a phrase in a book, an unexpected perfume, or something that we suddenly look at instead of seeing.
The ballpoint pen, for example, exists thanks to the intuition of László József Bíró who, looking at children playing marbles on the street, noticed that those passed in the puddle left a long liquid trace: the same mechanism as the ballpoint pen.
The important thing is that it is something that breaks into normal.
The liquid network of creativity
Are we then destined to wait for the light bulb to come on, going around in search of sparks?
Steven Johnson, author, and popularizer, gave a very interesting TED Talk on this very topic: Where do good ideas come from?
His thesis is fascinating. We are used to thinking of the arrival of the Brilliant Idea as a revealing moment – the Eureka moment! – a miraculous nanosecond in which the fragments of ideas calcify around a nucleus and create Intuition, a complete idea – and brilliant, like the principle of Archimedes, or Newton’s apple.
In truth, Johnson observes, this is only what happens on the surface, even if we like to believe the myth of inspiration – we already said last week that it has a certain charm.
What escapes most is that these moments of inspiration are preceded by a long incubation, a liquid network in which for days, months, sometimes even for years, ideas are slowly stratifying in the unconscious, before finding the bait that you stay them from within our mind.
On closer inspection, inspiration is twice a myth.
Both because alone is not enough, and when the good idea arrives you have to work on it, and a lot, but also because of that story that comes in a single, glorious instant, for an almost divine gift: not true.
As intriguing as storytelling is, ideas come from nothing, but from the meeting of two elements: a spark, on the one hand, that stimulates creativity, but above all a flexible and receptive mind on the other hand that is capable of grasping it, and make good use of it.
We, therefore, need a flexible and trained mind, but also well-nourished by stimuli.
Luck helps the bold, of course, but also the connected minds.