So, I'm one of those people who have lots and lots of ideas. They (seem to) just pop into my head. Perhaps this makes me a creative person. Perhaps a different diagnosis applies :). Most often, these ideas are about games, with stories being a good second. In my experience, these ideas come in two types: unconscious and (semi-)conscious.
The unconscious ideas are by far the strangest. What seems to happen is that a fully formed idea, usually a concept for a game, just springs into my head out of nothing. It feels like being hit by one of the inspiration particles Terry Pratchett wrote about:
I've read a thing or two about (the little we know about) how our minds work and what causes inspiration, and I know that how it feels does not equal how it works. You could say that your unconscious mind is always working on things without you knowing about it. But I always have this nagging feeling that what we call the unconscious mind is actually just the conscious mind forgetting what it was thinking about an hour ago. Or perhaps not forgetting, but filing really condensed versions of these thoughts away in cabinets that can't be consciously reached. What ever way that actually works, the gist is that the feeling of being hit by an inspiration particle is probably a result of a lot of unconscious thinking.
Much more about this subject (and lots of examples) can be found in Steven Johnson's book Where Good Ideas Come From and in his TED talk by the same name:
What happens after I've been hit by an inspiration particle is that I take a mental look at it (consciously, in case you're wondering). The base idea usually isn't all that big; more of a general concept than something completely worked out. But when I poke at it, for instance by identifying problems and asking how they are mitigated, answers often just seem to be there. As if the idea really did arrive fully formed, and you're just skipping to the page of the mental design document that has the information you were looking for. Again, I realise that's not how it works. But I do wonder whether my mind is actually making these things up on the fly or whether these are indeed already part of the idea that has unconsciously formed.
One -admittedly first world- problem with being hit by an inspiration particle is that it will start buzzing around in my conscious mind. And this is great. The idea expands, changes, is refined and sometimes parts are cut away from it (and sometimes the entire idea is discarded on closer examination, which is also useful). But it does drown out what I'm working on at the moment. Not a problem if I'm cleaning up the house, but it is a problem when I have to do work for which I need to think (deeply).
What helps is the age-old trick of writing things down. At first this may be just a few notes on a piece of paper, but to really free up my mind I (have to) type the entire thing into a document I call 'my ideas file'. Since doing this is another way of poking at the idea, the idea keeps expanding during writing. But eventually I catch up and have all of it in my file. I can then go on with what I'm supposed to be doing. Until the next inspiration particle strikes, that is :).
Hm, I just looked back and saw that I've already failed to write a short blog post even though I'm only halfway done.
My kids were watching the Muppet Show the other day when Kermit decided to do some more reporting from the planet Koozebane (although I've always thought of it as Koesbeen; owing to Dutch being my first language). This is the scene they watched:
And it's cool to catch a glimpse of how my mind works, even though it's also kind of scary to realise how much goes on in my brain without it telling me about it :P.
May you never lack inspiration!
- Willem -
PS; Posting this text on our blog was postponed a few hours in order to write down in my ideas file:
1) an idea for series of easy to read stories for my son and
2) the basis for a board game design, for which the main inspiration was the question whether it's possible to create a physical board game with simultaneous turns.
I hope this isn't too much of a surprise :).