Where do ideas come from?

It’s a question that has had me wondering for years. As an author I know ideas are what lies behind the Art. They are the core of my stories. When one of my characters does something it’s because of the cause and effect of ideas. It’s interesting in itself, but more than that, as I continue to search and improve myself in my art, this question becomes more important. If I can figure out the secret to where ideas comes from I will open a treasure chest of possibilities which will provide me with unlimited resources. Can you image that? It’s a tempting idea in itself. Exciting even.

So where do ideas come from and what are they? To start with I want to consider what I know.

We all have ideas and we all act on them, even if we end up taking no active action except to think or to ignore them. As human beings one of the differences between us and other animals is our ability to, not only have these innovative ideas, but also the passion to act on them. For example who was it that first thought about the possibilities of fire, or of the wheel? Did the first person actually take any action or just ponder the possibilities? Maybe they even communicated those ideas to another before they became a means for humanity to warm themselves, to cook, to build and to travel. Notice all the verbs? Our actions are born from ideas. They are important to understand. Ok that sounds about right, but still doesn’t address the issue – where do our ideas come from?

What else do I know? Some ideas are stronger than others. What determines whether an idea is motivational? What makes an idea take root and grow? The call to action depends on the depths to which our ideas inspire us. Inspiration is born from need, whether it’s a want to cure cancer because it personal, or whether it’s how can I help my team win its next game in sport? It’s subjective, it’s inspirational and it’s down to circumstance, the environment in which we live. That’s something helpful. There are external forces involved, it’s not all about inside us. Or should I say the perception of our external world set’s the environment for how fertile the ground on which the seeds of our ideas fall will be. If the first person to think about fire was warm, well fed and without fear what would they have made of its potential?

Intriguing. Hmmm. Ideas are subjective it seems. Limited by our perceptions, circumstance and abilities to see. Maybe you’ve heard of Aristotle’s cave. When one man leaves his world behind (the cave) explores new boundaries and when he returns no one can understand him as they have no frame of reference for his new insights, they have not travelled those paths and cannot see beyond their cave. Hmmm. It may be intriguing but I’m not sure I’m getting to the heart of this. I’ve only been able to say how ideas affect us, there’s still no clue about where they come from.

Let’s consider the mind, it’s taken that our thoughts come from our brains. So do these ideas come solely from inside ourselves? Are our ideas just random electrical impulses in our brains that form into something we can then see? What about divine inspiration or eureka moments? Are they just instances when certain things fall in the right slots inside our minds that we see particular circumstances in a different light? Is it all just us making sense out of the chaos of existence? That sounds like what I’ve always been told about creativity, but is it the full story? Is there more? There must be.

The mind works in two halves, apparently, the one side dealing with conscious thought and the other the subconscious. The subconscious works considerably faster than the conscious and each side influences the other in ways that are complex and are not always predictable. Is there a clue in this link between the conscious and the subconscious? Or are they just two methods of looking at the same thing? I’m not sure anyone knows enough about that to give the needed insights about ideas and where they come from.

So what else is there to know? As a species we can exchange ideas between ourselves by a whole number of different methods of communication, but what if an idea comes from beyond our own species thoughts? Is that even possible? Personally I believe anything is possible if we can only imagine how. So where does that leave me?

Stumped. I don’t know any answers.  But this idea has now taken a hold of me and I cannot let it go. So what’s next? Action. I am doing some research to find out if anyone else has discovered anything which will shed light on the question. And next month I will explore beyond my own cave and see what I can discover… At least it’s an idea for understanding what I need to know and more importantly – this is fun.

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