Nature & Nurture Of Ideas - Issue #9
The same as people, ideas are not born blank slates. They hold many innate facets. And to reach their full potential, they need to be nurtured, given time and sustenance to grow.
For the longest time, I thought my lack of creativity came from my own inability to have original ideas. Generally, it's easy to observe this hardship and misinterpret it as your lack of creativity. Sure, it might be easier for some people to have unique thoughts without as much stimuli. But I was also assured many times that once you attempt to fish for ideas, you'll be surprised by how many of them you'll catch.
What separates people with creative ideas and people who'd describe themselves as "not creative"? In my opinion, the line is only where you draw it yourself. Anyone has the capacity for creativity. Someone just has to sit there and fish longer. So let me explore this topic a bit more and see where we're by the end.
When people try to start writing, they often stare at a blank page and don't know how and where to start. The creative process is threefold. First, get an idea, explore it, and execute it. Many writers stare at a blank page for hours because they start exploring without knowing what they are exploring. If you put yourself in the exploratory phase before you have an idea to explore, you're setting yourself up for failure and what's called "creative burnout".
When you start noting ideas down, you rarely get to start with a blank page. Instead, you might start with a sentence or even just a word. This comes as a prerequisite for the rest of the points. When you come across an idea, you have to take action at that moment. You might think that if you get a brilliant idea, you'll remember it for its sheer brilliance. That's almost never the case. Pick a pen and paper and write it down.
Keep in mind that every idea may require a different way of preservation. Do you have an idea about composition for a photo? Then text might not be the best medium for preserving this idea. Maybe, in that case, it's better to sketch it out, however bad the initial sketch might be. Every idea deserves some thought about how to keep most of it best.
Once you've got an idea, double down on it. Focus on it and see where it leads you. Every idea has something deeper. It's this depth that won't let you rest once you start discovering the vastness of even little ideas.
In the book The Great Divorce, its author C. S. Lewis explores the concept of vastness inside minuscule things. In the story, the Christian hell is described as this neverending space where people get any material thing they wish for. This results in many people indulging, having huge houses and a lot of property. This makes every person very far from the next.
Even when the hell is vast in size, if you look at it from heaven, it'd fit on the tip of a needle. If you took a person from hell and made him larger to fit properly in heaven, he'd lack volume. He'd cut his feet on the grass just by walking on it. And this is what I mean by "focus on ideas". For as long as you stay curious, you'll have ways to go with that idea.
Intuition is mind and emotion together. It's a function of a human being that is difficult to describe, but everyone knows what this means themselves. It's this that separates your execution of ideas from other people. Two people who caught the same idea will go about it in different ways.
When you start cooking, you first go with a recipe. You try to follow it tightly and learn about the interactions of flavors. After you get the hang of it, you'll observe yourself moving to intuition instead of structure. Maybe you start by adding a little more or less salt or using different oil for cooking. Then you'll go bigger and add, remove or replace ingredients until you create a dish that's yours.
If you stayed put and cooked by the book without deviation, you could still create a perfectly fine dish. But that dish would likely never become exceptional.
You won't catch many ideas being stationary, sitting at your desk. There's so much inspiration all around the world. Your surroundings have tremendous power over you. Look beyond the usual in the mundane.
Changing context is good for you. When going for a walk, pick a route around an area where you haven't been before. A big city is good for this as there's so much new to explore that you'll never see it all. But nature is incredible in its own way as it's ever-changing. In nature, the same route will always look different.
But drawing ideas from the world doesn't just mean going outdoors. Ideas are everywhere. They're hidden within conversations, the music you listen to, or even within yourself, which brings us to the last point.
People often like to keep themselves busy. When you're out and about, perhaps you want to put earphones in and turn on a podcast. While there are many insightful and interesting podcasts, this might limit the time in a day that you could use for daydreaming. If you keep your mind constantly occupied, it will be difficult to catch some ideas on your own. And even harder to continue exploring them.
Daydreaming is a practice some people will need to plan for. Others have difficulty avoiding it (were you ever reading a book and found your mind wandering without noticing?). But the finish line stays the same whether it's sitting down in an empty room to give you space. Or you are going for a walk or to the gym where you keep your body occupied, so your mind is free.
Why is daydreaming that important? It comes with one of the previous points. Daydreaming is basically intuition leading the way of your thought process. There's no inherent goal; it's not analytical. You're giving your mind a free flow. It's up to your intuition where the stream is the strongest and thus where it's going to take you.
Ideas are the first part of the process of creation. And it's a crucial part. But no less important is execution. Perhaps I'll attempt to explore that topic in some of the subsequent letters.
Have a wonderful Sunday!
PS: I have many ideas on my list for the following weekly letter. Each one of those ideas is either a word, a sentence, or a paragraph that I got interested in. I took it down, and now every Saturday, I sit down and dig deeper into it until something's written and sent.
PPS: A couple of days ago I got to proofread a newsletter that goes to many more people than this one. Which got me thinking that I actually don't let anyone proofread this one. In fact, I use AI to proofread it for me. And AI is yet another topic I want to explore in the future.
PPPS: This week I got reminded of this meme. I still find it very funny & insightful at the same time.