An idea about ideas

When I was young I was scared that I would never have an original idea.

I was driven, I was always creating but I was only chasing the things that I loved. I had to own them. I wished that I could fly a Star Wars space ship, I wished that I could hold a little gadget in my hand that could answer all the questions in the world (hello Siri!). I wished that I could learn every piece of music that I loved, so that I could own them as well. 

These weren’t ideas of course, they were obsessions. 

So when I learnt that ‘creating’ was a thing, I decided that I needed to own some ideas of my own. I soon discovered that I was only chasing ghosts.

My English teacher told me to be a writer, but I was only paraphrasing books I had read. I loved to draw but I could only copy. An older friend suggested that I become an architect and I nearly had a breakdown when my lecturer told me “you’re just stealing from Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright”. 

I started to become distrustful of the ideas that popped into my head, I felt that they were imposters. At some stage my obsession with ideas should have turned into love and intuition but it all became mixed up. I wasted a lot of time abandoning projects that seemed to come from other peoples’ ideas – anything that I couldn’t 100% call my own.

The real mistake of course was the idea that I needed to own an idea. I can only really own what I do with the idea. 

An idea is a solution to a problem. It doesn’t come from a magical place, it is the combination of a bunch of different data joined for a common cause. If the set of data is very broad in scope, disparate, then it becomes a very original idea. Perhaps the problem is “how do I get my child to eat?” or “how shall we go there?” or “can I use music to scratch this irritating and elusive desire?” or “how do I fictionalise the terrible events I have experienced as a cautionary tale for my fellow humans?” When we feed the problem properly with the right information, an idea will come to us, like a gift. It is important that we show gratitude by doing it justice.

I believe that when we celebrate an artist’s idea we are really celebrating their own unique experience, their heightened self awareness, their relentless drive, their craft. Sometimes their idea seems impossibly original and we wonder how we could ever create such a wonderful thing but we have to remember that it came from a life experience that is probably completely foreign to our own.

These are just some simple ideas that I had, about ideas. They popped into my head as I was thinking about how to consolidate the memories of a wonderful weekend. You’ve probably had the very same ideas yourself but I hope that it might be interesting to see them expressed in a different way. 

That’s all.