So, I thought I'd share some of my research - that can be summed up in one sentence: "Carry a notebook so that you can write things down as they happen."
If you have the time, however, here's the long form - one that I've done one workshop with one group - and will hopefully have an opportunity to do it again:
An idea is salvation by imagination.
Frank Lloyd Wright (1869 - 1959)
Creativity is not an exact science. Where it’s hard to pinpoint where inspiration comes from, we all know it doesn’t come easy… this is why our clients depend on us.
Unfortunately, they also depend on us for quick turnarounds and impossible deadlines. This is where the rubber meets the road. To be truly successful at our crafts, we need to think fast, maintaining the creative instincts that led us to our current jobs in the first place.
Drexel University is interested in this very topic, and has done some research: They can see brain activity change during highly creative bursts – but have yet to figure out where the big ideas come from – they do think, however, that your brain is can be trained to think creatively… So when you need ideas in a hurry, they’re there!
Mark Twain said, “You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.”
So – Where do Ideas come from? We don't know - but the secret is – Documentation – and writing ideas down. Let's start with two ideas:
- What’s inspiring
- How to remember what’s inspiring – How to get in the habit
First, Let's talk about where to find inspiration.
1) By listening. When I was a young video producer, I wrote a commercial for a dairy that ended with the line, "To get any fresher, we'd have to refrigerate the cow!" I was killing myself trying to figure out how I could find a grocery store that would let me bring in a cow - to film in front of the dairy case. Of course, no one would do that - and I had no solutions... until the dairy client was talking about the last scene... "I don't know how you're gonna do it - put a cow in a freezer or do a cartoon or what..."
A cartoon!!!! That was my answer - and it was great. I was able to finish the spot with this little guy (and I actually got all of the credit!!!)
2) Films: I'm so inspired by Errol Morris - but I'm sure you have your own inspirations to draw from - Baz Luhrman, Julie Taymor - Just watch and learn!
3) Performers: The first time I saw Cirque du Soleil, I thought I could honestly run off with the circus... I was also amazed and inspired by the Blue Men and Stomp... These are performances that kind of stretched my understanding of what it is to be human - physically, musically, and all - showed me that my boundaries of humor and imagination needed some conditioning.
4) Dreams: I used to keep a dream journal - where I'd write down whatever I could remember when I woke up. I had it to a point where I'd often write down three to four dreams per night. I learned a lot about myself - and peeled a layer off of conventional thinking to get to the depths of creative thought. Someday, I'll write down a few of my more interesting dreams.
5) Media - TV shows, commercials, music videos... Occasionally, you find something so creative - it really gets your mind turning... current things I've liked include Pushing Daisies, the OK Go video (the treadmills) - and more.
6) Theater - The great thing about stage is that it's spontaneous, universal and mimetic... I've been inspired by everything from the set changes of "The Producers" to the off-off Broadway magic that is the Wooster Group.
7) BOOKS! - My favorites: Hard Laughter, Ella Minnow Pea, The Brothers K, Simon's Night, and Life of Pi... Just to name a few.
8) Talk may be Cheap, but it's SO valuable! Do you remember who you talk to when you're looking for some inspiration? I have some amazing friends in my life who really get my creative wheels turning! If they make a creative slip of the tongue, even better!
9) Past Events - Stories from childhood can create some beautiful universal stories... and some creative twists, and funny things that kids say.
10) Word Wiggles - William Burroughs used a cut-up method – of taking his ordinary text and cutting it into three columns arbitrarily… He then read the ideas in a new way… David Bowie often throws words into generating software that mixes them up. What he starts with may be a simple sentence – what he emerges with is a completely fresh idea.
11) The F-Words, Failure and Frustration - Ever ask what would you do differently? Take the time to write it down. Necessity is the mother of invention… When we hate things, we tend to find ways to work around them. How does this affect your creativity?It’ll help you later… in surprising ways.
12) Spinning the Web - for some resources, check out this, this, and http://www.inc.com/magazine/20021015/24773.html for a little brain candy. - also love indexed, desire to inspire, the Stylephle, and Coolhunter.
Are you inspired yet?
To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.
-Thomas A. Edison (1847 - 1931)
Your notebook of ideas should be your pile of junk... It's a boundaryless receptical of thoughts, ideas, questions, quotes, and scraps of paper. In mine, you'll find a pile of artist photos, quotes explaining why laughter is similar to sorrow, a few taped-in tags, stickers that say "I love Holiday office parties," top ten lists, and more.
I'll end with J.R.R. Tolkien's inspiration in action - here's how he created the Hobbits: "The Hobbits are just rustic English people, made small in size because it reflects the generally small reach of their imagination."
Just remember - Like Picasso says, "Everything you can imagine is real..."
So go create something!