I recommend reading ‘Idea Sex’ before this essay.
Much of idea generation occurs in the recesses of the mind. How can creativity be optimized?
The three occasions of ideas:
While each occasion is limited, they can be maximized. For Occasion #1 there comes a point where, despite idea sex, nothing more comes to mind, and so we must turn to Occasions #2 and #3.
Occasion #2, while based on luck, can be enhanced by doing menial tasks after considering the problem.
When we think hard about something, and then work on something menial thereafter, the problem continues to mull over in the background of the mind— but if we overload our mind with something highly cognitive, this doesn’t occur.
However, ideas generated in this way don’t always make themselves known. Sometimes these ideas are only caught hours or days later. Thus we need to check the fish trap occasionally. I’ve found that creativity and ideation directly correlates with the number of times I can reexamine the problem fully. Occasion #3 can be enhanced by reconsidering the problem every few days.
For this reason I proactively track the problems in my life that need more ideas—projects, cards and gifts for others, likely future problems, etc.—via my calendar/to-do to be reconsidered about every three days. (A bed-side notepad also helps.) In this way, I “sit on ideas” for a while. This works well for me.
I have a folder on my computer with a couple hundred text documents, each with a theme of ideas. Incrementally, I add more documents and more ideas. Some drafts flourish, and eventually become essays, but this process rarely occurs quicker than three months, and it often takes me six months. And because I never sit down to “finish X essay”, writer’s block is nonexistent—either I have ideas to add, or I don’t.
Any given document will swell with ideas, fragment into what will be posted and what will be held back, and then coalesce into an organized piece.
Writing almost feels like fishing, I wade into my pond of idea fish, bump into some fish, attach new ideas to the fish, and move on. With every new idea-theme, I throw a new fish into the pond. I do this a little everyday.
Note, however, that the final stage of “critical mass of ideas” to “published” does take more deliberate effort to revise and refine, and doesn’t happen as incrementally.
This essay took seven months of drafting to post, and now six weeks after posting I’m adding this blurb. I revise all of my essays in a similar incremental manner.
Having a bed-side notepad also helps. I’ve lost a lot of ideas this way. It also helps me clear my mind before sleep.
Or an X-activity notepad for that reason. Or a voice recorder.
I’ve been told that this is called “incremental writing” and that I should experiment with an app called SuperMemo
Drawing a mind map for everything relating to a problem and coming back to the mind map might be an interesting technique. I’ll have to explore this.
Ideated 2020 July 5, reconsidered every few weeks for seven months, posted 2021 February 22, last revised 2021 April 10.
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