How to get ideas

Some people think creativity is something innate. Others believe it can be honed and sharpened. I believe it is a matter of willingness. One gets ideas when one is open to them.

Towards the end of my time in college, I began working on a story about an alien orphan on a backward and under-developed planet. My hero discovers that he is the last of a race of super-psychics who ruled the galaxy long ago. The story stayed with me for a month or so. I spared little effort in capturing it in its awesome brilliance, blaming my tight college schedule and my general inability to write long stories due to impatience. To my relief, it eventually left me.

A few months after that, I found elements of my story in an extremely cool Indian fantasy novel. The levels of similarity in some details to my idea blew me away. And the novel had actually been written (in a much better way than I could even hope to) before my idea ever came to me. I have learnt since that the only thing that makes me creative is my willingness to be so.

Ideas don’t care a fig about my talents. They are choosy, but they don’t make a show of choosing a worthy vessel as far as capacity is concerned. It is up to the person who gets an idea to prove himself/herself worthy of the honour. One’s chances of getting an idea go up phenomenally if one is willing.

Some time ago, someone told me I was fortunate to be creative and that he never gets any ideas. I told him he was complaining about bad reception without even trying to get a cable connection.

How then, does one go about getting ideas?

Start by letting the universe know you are ready to become creative. Although it is more a state-of-mind thing than anything else, you can actively help by reading up, listening and generally exposing yourself to emotions and states that are conducive to the kind of ideas you are seeking. Think of it as furnishing your mind-space so that ideas are comfortable there.

Secondly, be prepared to indulge ideas. They require a lot of loving. You may be fortunate to get a nagging idea – the sort that won’t leave you, no matter what. But for the most part, ideas are fickle and moody. They can take you to wonderful places and open your eyes to beautiful worlds, but if you ask them to wait five minutes so you can finish up your business at the bank, they will walk out of your head and won’t come back. This is why carrying a notepad is so important. You can take notes while on the trip and jot them down later. You will notice however, that if you write as and when an idea strikes you, you will always be happy with your work.

Ideas require space. Make sure your worries and problems don’t crowd into the room you have so graciously provided your ideas. This will piss them off and they will leave. If at all you let your worries into the presence of ideas, teach them to be civil. Tell them to communicate. With luck, you will see something new arising out of the friendship.

More often than not, your idea-room will play host to more than one idea. It may even have a well-behaved worry or two in it. Sooner or later, they will mingle and reproduce. Let them. There have been times when I have stepped into such intercourses and declared that sci-fi must not have any feelings for poetry, or that my nightmares must never meet my brand new trophy character. My policing has invariably always caused them to rise in indignation and walk out.

When I play cool, they let me watch their orgies. It is highly entertaining. Sometimes, I end up an uncle to a brand new baby idea. It is the best feeling ever. Try and encourage such interaction. After ideas leave, they will tell others about how cool a host you are and you will get more of them. Don’t forget to be nice to them as well.

I can not overemphasise the point about ideas being finicky. You may feel the occasional urge to dress up an idea in something else. These suggestions will mostly come from your worldly-wise self. I think it is safe to say that such attempts don’t work very well. An idea has all the clothes it needs. That which it needs, it finds by itself inside the room. Forcing your idea into a suit even when you know it is more of a t-shirt person, will kill your end product.

When it is finally time to part ways with your ideas (regardless of whether your association bore any fruit or not), do it on nice terms. Don’t shove them out of your life. Take notes and keep a record of the details. Most good ideas will return.

Philosopher J Krishnamurti said it is the thought that is primary, not the thinker. So no matter what, through all this, remember always to feel fortunate.