Ideas do not come in a burst followed by the classical Eureka exclamation. They are not Athena, goddess of strategy, born fully grown, bursting from her father's head, wearing armor, shouting a war cry.
Research shows that ideas are a slow punch. They fade in after lingering in and around the corners of the mind.
Steve Johnson does a wonderful TED TALK on this. The upshot is, ideas marinate in a stimulating, chaotic soup. When we finally articulate them, they've actually been brewing for a substantial amount of time.
The myth of writers taking those long, solitary walks in nature, returning with the genius idea, or the philosopher sitting quietly by the fountain with chin resting on fist until realization bursts to life like a chorus of Kookaburras (listen to a chorus of Kookaburras here) is only partly true.
What really stimulates new ideas is coffee.
Okay, not exactly coffee, but the coffee shop.
According to Johnson, the consumption of coffee coincided with the age of enlightenment, not so much for the stimulating properties, but because drinking more coffee meant drinking less alcohol. Let's face it, the water wasn't exactly bacteria and parasite free. It was safer to drink beer, rum and wine day and night, which dulled the creative edge. Ideas definitely became sharper with the switch to a cup o' Joe.
Once out of the drunken stupor and into a kind of "writers room" environment with diverse and stimulating perspectives, ideas went wild, and they've been accelerating ever sense. The chaos and unpredictability of like and unlike minds, bantering in a free-for-all is much more conducive to flipping on the new neurons in the brain.
|The Muses by Maarten van Heemskerck|
Think about it. Are the Muses - representing the manifestations of creative ideas - ever drawn in isolation, brows creased, nose in the books?
Most images I've seen are festival like dalliances that seem to go on day and night without end. There is definitely a lot of dancing and cavorting.
What this new research, and ancient wisdom, tells us about cultivating ideas can be summed up in four simple steps:
a) drink less alcohol
b) brainstorm with others
c) allow ideas to marinate and grow
d) nurture more connection; less protection
What I want to know is, where do your new ideas come from? Isolation or collaboration? A bit of both?
Kim Falconer is a Supernatural Underground author writing paranormal romance, urban fantasy, YA and epic science fantasy novels.
You can find out more about Kim at the 11th House Blog, and on FaceBook and Twitter.
She posts here at the Supernatural Underground on the 16th of every month.
Her latest release is "Blood and Water" in Supernatural Underground: Vampires Gone Wild.