Where Do Ideas Come From?

One of the most common questions authors are asked is: “Where do you get your ideas?” You may have asked this question yourself, or at least thought about it, particularly if you have spent any time staring at a blank screen.

The reason, presumably, is that the person asking the question is struggling to come up with ideas of their own. And it may seem that an author, particularly a prolific one, has no shortage of them and might have some to spare. Or at least they can draw a map for others to follow.

But is that actually the case? Does someone who has ideas for books, for songs, for paintings, for inventions, or really for anything at all, establish a connection to a world of ideas?

What, exactly, is an idea? Some might characterize an idea as an external thing, like an apple you can pick from a tree. Others might say they are simply the logical conclusions from a series of statements. Or perhaps at the confluence of two seemingly disparate fields is where ideas can be found.

Whatever you think happens to be the nature of ideas, how might you direct someone to access them more easily? Is your imagination like a muscle, and the more you use it the easier it becomes to use? If you read more books, or have conversations with strangers, or go to museums, will inspiration come to you more readily?

Where do ideas come from?

Related questions: How can we turn ideas into actions? What are the benefits of fiction? Where do shared ideas exist? When do you need inspiration?

What Book Has Had the Biggest Impact on You?

Of the books you have read, which one has meant the most to your life?

Share why if you wish.

Michael’s Answer:  Mine is Wendell Berry’s What Are People For?  This was the first book I read from Berry.  It changed how I saw myself in relation to the environment, the economy, and my love of growing food.

Lee’s Answer: There are lots of possible answers, and on a different day I might have a different selection. Today I’ll choose What It Is by Lynda Barry. The book is part creative guide, part art object, part memoir, and part philosophy text. I found it inspiring, challenging, and unforgettable.

 

How Can You Help?

Intellectual Roundtable needs your help.

For more than a year, we have been publishing a new question every Sunday, designed to bring some quiet contemplation to your otherwise busy lives. As time goes on, the number of people visiting the site has been steadily decreasing. Fewer and fewer people are answering the questions, or are even being exposed to them.

We’re looking for ways to reverse this trend, and have more people read the questions, answer them, and interact with others doing the same.

Hence our question: How can you help? You might look through our list of past questions, find one that you like, and answer it. Maybe you can propose a question of your own using our online form. Perhaps you can share the blog on Facebook, via email, or other social media platforms via the icons on each page. Even if you don’t want to contribute to content in any way, you can provide some feedback about what does or doesn’t work for you with what we are doing and how we are doing it.

But there’s a second meaning to the question as well. In your life, there will always be people or causes that you care deeply about. Something may be a passion project for you or for your community. How can you bring attention to a cause, or take actual, concrete steps toward improving or enhancing something you care about? What are the ways you can strengthen bonds between you and loved ones?

How can you help?

Related questions: How can we turn ideas into actions? What are our responsibilities to others? What makes a community? How do you define success?

How Can We Encourage Debate?

Having a healthy, respectful, robust debate takes more than simply having an opinion and a loud voice. If I make a list of what is needed to have a good dialogue, what would that list contain?

In an era of polarized opinions on a number of topics including politics, religion, health care, gun control, immigration, abortion, and several other issues, how can we have a debate in which opposing sides actually listen to each other?

How can we encourage debate?

Related questions: How can we turn ideas into actions? What is necessary to change your mind? When is doubt helpful? How do you know who to trust?

What Is Important?

Life is complicated, with lots of moving parts. Sometimes it can feel overwhelming, so much is happening. But if you simplify things, strip away all the minutia of everyday living, some events or actions or people mean more than everything else.

In other words: What is important?

Related questions: Why do we spend time on things that are not important? How do you define success? How do we choose our priorities?  How important is the repetition in our lives?