I don’t know about you, but as a writer, I’m prone to hibernating — in fact, I’m down right fond of it. Some of my happiest moments are spent in solitude. And yet, I also find that some of my best ideas come from getting out of my own head and my own space. Turns out, I’m onto something — at least according to a new guide to innovation called Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson.
The lightbulb moment, the flash of inspiration, the eureka moment — these are all classic images of creativity. And yet, if you dissect how great new inventions or concepts come into being, says Where Good Ideas Come From, you’ll find that a “breakthrough” idea is actually not one idea — but the product of many different ideas and associations that are cobbled together from a variety of sources: other people, things we read or see, memories. And most ideas don’t spring from our heads fully formed; instead they percolate and simmer below the surface — often for many years. Creative concepts, are the result of what Johnson calls “the slow hunch” — a shadowy half-formed concept that builds and grows over time.
How can we use all this as writers? Where Good Ideas Come From sounds like a great source of inspiration for us. Based on some initial reviews of the book, here are a few practical tips:
“Chance favors the connected mind:” We need to balance our introspective time with opportunities to reach out and interact with other people. We need to share what we’re working on and bounce our ideas off other minds. So go out to lunch and coffee houses: mingle and muse!
We need varied experiences: the richer our environment and the more “liquid” and diverse our networks are, the more likely it is that an idea we have will collide with another idea and create something new. Make it a point to explore: find new places, attend offbeat events, get off the beaten path!
“Write everything down:” keep track of your ideas — you never know where they’ll take you. Now that’s great advice!