Bill's Conversational Musings

Where do Ideas Come From? Part 1


Where do ideas come from? Sounds like the answer should be simple, right? Not so fast. What I hope to do in this article is walk you through some of the steps that helps me generate ideas. For me, ideas can come at anytime so I have to be on the lookout and prepared to capture them.

Pattern Recognition

First, what can we do to get ideas? A way to generate ideas is first to develop a pattern of recognition. I'll first look for patterns or how things are organized. This is the basis of theme and variation. From there I look for similar example in that work (it could be art, music, food, etc.) and where do they appear elsewhere in the same work or in other compositions and creations.

For me personally, that means looking at things at a macro, big-picture level. Then, I will move in closer and study the details. After which I will take in the bigger picture again to envision how the details fit into the whole. Is there something that is being done well that I could incorporate into my project?

I'll speak to people who have achieved something similar in the past. Not only can they share the ideas they learned, but can also aid with what questions I should be asking.

Do Something Different

Another idea generator is to get out of your comfort zone. We as humans enjoy the familiar. We tend to shop, eat and visit the same spots time and time again. It is safe and we know what to expect. Getting out of your comfort zone allows you to see things in a different manner. This could mean travelling to a museum of art when you really don't care for art. Perhaps you will discover how to frame a particular shot for a film or see how other people view the world around you.

Camping and travel is a great way to explore things within yourself. Getting out in the open where you are responsible for your own survival and comfort will aid you in realizing what you can and cannot tolerate.


Dreams can be a common source of ideas. It's something you have to stimulate. How that works is different for each individual. I know my dreams are often influenced by the experiences happening around me at that time. The important thing about ideas from dreams is to make sure to write them down. There is a small window of time when the unconscious brain and conscious brain are equally active. It's at that time you need to write down what it is you are thinking about or just discovered. Too many times have I thought to myself, "I'll recollect.." And then 5-10 minutes afterwards I have forgotten what I just saw in my dreams. Keep a pen and paper nearby and write that stuff down, those are free, unique ideas.


"There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow men. True nobility lies in being superior to your former self." Ernest Hemingway

Speaking of writing things down, journaling everyday interactions is a good way to generate ideas. Keeping a journal allows you to recollect things from a time earlier in your life. I keep a work journal and I can track my progression where I was perhaps anxious about a new project, but now I can look back and realize those worries were nothing at all. From that, I can look for ideas to prepare for the next adventure and write those down for a future version of myself to evaluate.


Albert Einstein said: “The intellect has little to do on the road to discovery. There comes a leap in consciousness, call it intuition or what you will, and the solution comes to you and you don’t know how or why."

It's important to trust what you already know. You have been on this planet a while and you have seen how things work. How would those things apply to your situation?

If you want to prove or validate your intuition, you can do some comparison connections. An example I like to reference is a cup of coffee. It's something everyone can identify with yet different to each individual. For one person coffee can represent a daily requirement or a need to get started in the morning. For others it can represent warmth. For some, it can be a symbol of cold, bitterness and without value.

Review & Revisit

Then revisit some of the other processes mentioned earlier. Perhaps doing some environmental scanning would help. If your idea or perception on one thing changes, how does that affect the people or processes related to it? Did it get better or worse over time? And, was that the intended goal?

Mental vs Actual

Lastly, you can stimulate and integrate dissimilar but complementary mental processes. An example of this would be the comparison between motor and visual imaginary. Think of throwing a baseball. Now pick up a baseball and throw it. Did it go as far as physically as it did in your imagination? What were the similarities and differences? Did something happen that was unexpected?


This is the fuel for ideas. Not all of these techniques will work for every person. Sometimes, it's a matter of finding the right combination. The brain, however, is an amazing organ. With the right stimulation, the ideas will come.

Next I will talk about idea detractors. The kind of thinking that poisons the creativity process and limits the formation of ideas.

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