Creative Thinking Tuesday, 14th October 2014

What Inspires You?

Starry Night, photo by me

The Starry Night, photo by me

On my honeymoon, my wife and I were fortunate enough to visit MOMA and have a good morning of wandering around. It began with The Starry Night, which to my humble untrained eye is the most amazing piece of art ever. Whenever I look at it I feel refreshed, alive with possibilities: it gets my brain turning over, and gets me wondering… What if…?

There are lots of creative thinking processes and tools to aid idea generation (see my post on DRC, for example), but if these are the tools for the job, it’s still important to have raw materials. Inspiration – something that makes you go “Hmmmmmm…” – can come from lots of places. Where do you get your inspiration from? It comes from somewhere, so where is it?

I’m asking but I don’t have THE answer

But I do have a few little suggestions for how to find inspiration. I hope they help, and if you have any suggestions please share them in the comments.

First, don’t wait for it to strike, go hunting for it: go merrily looking for things to inspire you. They may be happy things, or sad, or even things which make you angry. Part of my day-to-day process is to draw together lots of different types of information. I read a couple of mailing lists from interesting people, have a folder of blogs and news sites that I set to open automatically first thing (a quick scan through and I shunt interesting looking posts to Pocket for later reading); I also eavesdrop on forty-or-so people who play and make role-playing games on Google Plus. They’re a passionate and interesting group of people, and I find that level of creativity infectious!

If you know something of what inspires you – whether it is a painting or regular infodumps that stir up ideas – then find ways to get more of it.

Another source of inspiration is random provocation; I think I first encountered this concept in Edward de Bono’s book How To Have Creative Ideas. For example, you could escape from a creative block by taking a random word – take a book off your shelf, point to a word on a page – and then use that word and any associations to come up with ideas. The theory says that as the mind loves to make patterns, it will try to connect random words and associations with a problem or challenge: you find inspiration from random input.

I’ve used this technique a lot, and seen people really jump on it. I’ve given a brief summary of one process, so if it sounds interesting look around for an expanded description (I might return to this in a future post).

These are two different sorts of inspiration; the second works, but in some ways it can feel like a kind of forced inspiration. You are using a process to try to summon up new connections between ideas – this is a kind of creative thinking, of course. The first sort is to create a mental environment that teems with possibilities, a glass filled up with a champagne of idea bubbles constantly fizzing against your brain. I prefer this option, but use both when I need to.

Where do you find your inspiration? A thing or place that inspires, random input, stimulation from inspiring sources – where else?

Thanks for reading!

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)

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