Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Where Do Ideas Come From?

Dorothy had this to say on how creative ideas come to here. This is from her comment on my post, "More on Resistance:"

"I find a lot of creative ideas pop up when I've stopped looking for them, when I'm doing one of those steady methodical tasks, like tying up treadles, threading heddles, or often enough, washing the dishes! So, for me, Leigh's "work" time is my time to let my mind wander off, and to see what it finds. I know lots of people don't like washing dishes, for me it's a useful time to just let my mind do it's own thing, things get resolved, I get relaxed, ideas happen."

This is very true for me as well. In a recent post I talked about my "spinning mind." The way I used the phrase implied a kind of separation from my body, something operating outside of thre boundaries of my body. And I talked about that "spinning mind" while throwing the shuttle. Certainly throwing a shuttle qualifies as a "steady methodical task."

It is very energizing to find ideas coming somewhere from those subconscious depths with no apparent effort on my part. But then it is also frustrating. I feel the urgent need, when this happens, to stop immediately whatever it is I am doing and write it down. The other alternative is to try hard to hold it in memory. All this is especially difficult during those moments when idea after idea seems to roll out. These are usually not different ideas, but continuations of the original idea that just popped up.

I have learned something interesting, however. Recently I decided that if the idea was important enough, I would remember it. And so I have found myself to be perfectly capable of holding the idea or ideas in my memory until an appropriate stopping point comes. What is more, I am able to do the same thing when these ideas come to me suddenly in the middle of the night. I used to get up and write them down. But now I tell myself, if it is worth while, it will be there waiting for me in the morning. And so I just go back to sleep and find the idea still there when I wake up, ready to be written down.

I do not really think, however, that these ideas come from nowhere. I think they come because some necessary work has already been done. Some kind of groundwork has been laid.

But besides writing down these unanticipated ideas, what am I to do with them? Richard Box, in his book Color and Design in Embroidery, suggests a process that must then follow these flashes of insight:

"This illumination then requires confirmation and realisation which in itself may take time, cause changes and developments before eventual completion." (page 1)

Indeed, it is my experience that many or maybe even most of these "brilliant" ideas are never confirmed but instead dissolve into nothingness upon examination. But even if they do so dissolve, their coming into existence is of value. Their erupting into the consciousness brings me pleasure, and they may in some unknown way contribute to other ideas that will prove valuable to me.

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