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Creative thinking: where do all the ideas come from?

Creative thinking: where do all the ideas come from? - Zadro Agency

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“I don’t need an alarm clock. My ideas wake me.” ~ Ray Bradbury, WD

Lucky for some, but Monday mornings can be tricky when you’re a copywriter or designer making a living out of the artful arrangement of words or colours on a page.

It got me thinking, where do all the good ideas come from? And how do creative people maintain inspiration and momentum without “burning out”? Writers, graphic designers, artists and architects reveal that inspiration wears many faces. While there’s no “one-size-fits-all” method or answer, there are certain things that a creative person does differently.

Be Aware of Detail

Being visually aware of surroundings, particularly in nature, walking in the bush or at the beach, is a popular source of inspiration. As are art galleries, craft markets, people watching, seeing a universe of possibilities in hundreds and thousands on a piece of fairy bread, and day dreaming. At art college one of the most important things you do is life drawing, it helps you develop an eye for detail and absorb the world around you. The point is, ideas are a sum of your knowledge and experiences, and observing and having new experiences stimulate ideas.

Step Outside the Box

Is there any truth in the well-worn stereotype of the mad creative? Perhaps the reason creative people are seen as eccentric is they aren’t afraid to step outside the box. Art is unconventional. It surprises, grabs and moves you, provoking a response. It is a kind of emotional truth, artists dare to express taboos. As author Amy Tan says: “Creativity is the inability to repress associations.”

Although daily discipline to your craft is important, creative people often resist being bound to routine. They are a curious bunch, hungry for new experiences, taking risks and asking questions.

Tan reveals she muses over questions like: “What is the meaning of my life? What is my place in the world? How do I create something out of nothing?”

There are no absolute truths. If you don’t know, you discover some kind of answer through imagining. Sometimes Tan feels like the creativity is coming from the universe, and from the ghost of her grandmother.

Many writers and artists share the same view. Novelist Elizabeth Gilbert and author of Eat Pray Love says something similar in the TED talk Your Elusive Creative Genius; about her creativity coming from an unknown source. American poet Ruth Stone says she feels a poem barrelling at her from the landscape and she would run to write it down. If she missed it would reach another poet, or sometimes she’d catch the tail of it and the words would come out backwards.

This unknown creative assistance was popular in ancient Greece and Rome. They believed creativity came from divine beings, a “genius” helped the artist shape their work. Whereas now we talk about a creative person “being” a genius rather than “having” one. The idea of divine assistance protected the artist from narcissism as the credit for the work was not all theirs.

The Renaissance brought a shift to rational humanism, where creativity was perceived as coming from the self – one mere person as the vessel of all creativity and unknown mystery is too much responsibility. It creates so much pressure it can destroy creativity, hence that old stereotype of the mad creative.