How to come up with good ideas

Advice, October 4th, 2017

Stop trying to come up with good ideas.

Settle for coming up with ideas, and lots of them.

A lot of work in creativity has found that the folks we generally consider creative “proliferate options.” They don’t just come up with Synecdoche, New York in a single brainstorming session. One of the reasons I (and presumably many others) like John Jasper’s Flags is that he lays bare the “prototyping” process by giving glimpses into parallel artistic universes (PAU’s) he could have inhabited in settling upon a final piece. Instead of settling, he just showed us (though I’m sure there’s countless more that haven’t seen the light of day). The key to creativity is this sort of divergent thinking. You’ve got to create PAU’s. One of the things that paralyzed me in terms of writing was how many other words would do just as fine. I started that sentence with “one of the things,” but could have gone with “one thing.” A crucial skill here, is selective collapsing. At some point, some things are going to be so similar there’s not much point in proliferating options in that way. “One of the things,” and “one thing” are both good enough and most likely either would do. At the very least, I’ve learned to ignore that for now and focus on it later when you’ve got more context to check against. That was a weird obstacle.

One of the biggest obstacles I’ve seen people have with creating PAU’s is self-consciousness and self-censoring.

Victor Gomes

envy is ignorance; imitation is suicide.