Books, Art, & Visual Culture


Writing and design by Melissa Hill, graphic designer.

Where do ideas come from?


Ideas are all around us...

but can we catch them?

Shall I write? But I don’t know what to say. Ideas are all around us, they come from life, from things that happen to us, from people we interact with, things we see, conversations we have… ideas are everywhere, ours for the taking, for the having.

So why aren’t we all having them then?

Neil Gaiman said, “You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we’re doing it.”

I don’t know… is that all it is? An awareness? A talent for observation and an awareness that what you observe is worthwhile somehow? But once an observation is made, it doesn’t necessarily follow that one knows what to *do* with it, for it to become anything other than a randomly recorded moment. Possibly not even that – a randomly *noticed* moment.

Noticing that you are having an idea is a good start, but often it isn’t enough. You feel as though you need a whole swathe of ideas to even start anything. Sure, you’ve had a fleeting thought, something potentially interesting that niggles at you… an IDEA. But then what? Alone, untethered like that, it seems somewhat trite, ridiculous, pointless in its lack of depth or sophistication. You can’t see the worth in it, can’t believe there’s any point to following that train of thought.

Perhaps the real difference between writers and other people is simply that they overcome the fear of starting. Of facing that blank page, that empty screen and just putting words down even though they don’t actually have an “idea” and they haven’t a clue what will happen.

Perhaps the writers are those who have learnt to not mind (or at least not become incapacitated by the fact) that their beautiful new notebook is filled with mainly drivel that they would never show another person.

Perhaps the writers simply know that yes, it is worth jotting down that seemingly stupid, random thought that they still find interesting even though it:

a) doesn’t make sense
b) is cheesy
c) has been done to death
d) is boring
e) all of the above

It seems sad to me that we’ve taken this word, “creative”, that should simply mean one who creates, and have attached a criteria, a judgement to it. There is the pressure that everything one produces must always be original and imaginative to be worthy of the time taken on it – the word “creative” seems to tap into some of the magical qualities we imagine creators to possess.

No wonder it can be so difficult to begin.

But the reality of it is that the most important quality is usually persistence. It’s the continuing to do. The painters, they paint. The composers compose. The writers, they write. And in doing so, they don’t *have* ideas, they *create* ideas.

Photo by Melissa Hill