Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Inspiration: Where do Ideas Come From?

Yesterday, as I was stepping out of the shower I had an epiphany about my current WIP. I knew how the beginning and the end had to go, but there was a lot of murkiness in the middle. Just as I was towelling off it hit me. The perfect middle. I hopped into my clothes and jotted down a few notes so I wouldn't forget anything.

I listened to the radio show Spark: Technology and the Wandering Mind on the weekend. In one segment they talked about how human brains spend about 30% of waking hours thinking about things other than the task at hand and how this idle brain activity is where most of our creativity spawns. Like sleep and dreaming it is an essential activity if we want to keep our brains in proper working order. The best time for mind-wandering, they explained, is when you're working at a mundane task which doesn't occupy your full attention.

On the show, they discussed how many people are crushing that creative thinking-time by constantly plugging themselves in to their wireless devices. It's most noticeable in children, the scientist explained, because they have such active imaginations, but the 50% of American kids who are exposed daily to handheld computers of one kind or another (leap-pad, iPhone, whatever) show demonstrably less creativity than those with less exposure.

Which, combined with the shower got me to thinking. All of my best ideas have come to me while I was away from the computer, but whenever I'm sitting at my desk and struggling to come up with story ideas I tend to just sit here. I blog, visit writer's forums and such, but as long as my mind is occupied there's no room for that perfect solution to filter through to the surface.

I will try an experiment over the next few weeks. I will spend more time away from the computer to give myself time to think. I'll see if I get more writing done, or less.

In the meantime, I'm just glad I don't have a smart-phone and I'm not addicted to Facebook.


Nelly said...

How wonderful that the idea finally hit you.And I agree kids are not using their imagination like we all used to

Che Gilson said...

It is a serious problem. And it's even more fundamental than losing creativity. When you learn something new you need time to think about what you learned and internalize it, but we spend so much time multi-tasking that it eats away at the ability to learn.

Mark Fenger said...

Yeah, I avoid all sorts of electronic gadgets for this reason. I'm tempted to make my next cell phone a John's Phone.

When I'm out and let my mind wander is when the best ideas come and I see so many zombies plugged in to their cellphones it's crazy. Last summer I saw a middle-aged guy texting away while dragging his puppy along after him, right through a bunch of broken glass.