Tag Archives: ideas

Building a thought form

Everything we do is rooted in an idea, one way or another. When what we do is habit, or has been absorbed from our culture as ‘normal behaviour’ we might not notice it as an idea. We might think that’s just the way it is and that nothing can be changed. Our brains work in ways that make running down the same lines of thought all the time inherently easy, while coming up with totally new ways of thinking takes more effort.

If you want to change something you have to build the idea. It is well worth doing this deliberately and making time for it every day if you can. Imagine yourself doing (or not doing) the thing you wish to change to. Building a thought form this way allows you to test it and find out more about how it might work for you. It creates the scope to fettle the plan before you try doing anything for real. This can head off a lot of problems!

Here are some examples:

If you drive all the time and think about distance and your arrangements in terms of cars, think about walking or catching the bus. What would you have to figure out to do that? Ask the questions, do the research, then imagine getting about by other means, and make a point of imagining it. At some point you’ll have a go – keep reinforcing that by imagining yourself walking places or taking the bus. What you do will change.

If you want to be more confident in ritual, imagine yourself in a ritual space. Imagine the kinds of things you might be called upon to do, and picture yourself not just doing them, but doing them really well and feeling respected for your contribution. You can also try imagining making mistakes and that everyone is kind and supportive when that happens. By building these ideas, you build the confidence to have a go, and you also have a better idea of what to do, so you’ll do a better job.

I’ve also used this strategy to tackle anxiety and to try and reduce the experience of being triggered. I’ve got some good mileage on this score. I would only recommend trying this if you feel reasonably on top of things already – if you are deep in crisis, thinking about things that trigger you will probably just trigger you and make everything worse. If you are recovering and feel safe these can be things to explore.

Everything we do, we dream up first. Even the things that seem spontaneous will come from somewhere. You don’t spontaneously murder someone with an ice pick if you’ve never thought about it before. However, if every day, you imagine taking the ice pick from the garage to murder your neighbour, the odds of doing this are much increased. When we’re not in control of this, and our daydreams are fed by sources we aren’t paying attention to, and when we don’t notice what our recurring wishes and fantasies are, something other than us has the steering wheel in our lives. Being more conscious about how you dream and what you want and what you envisage yourself doing gives you back control, and allows you to make deliberate changes.

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Inspiration and a pre-emptive grumble

For the past month or so, Tom and I have been involved in a weekly podcast called artshare – http://art-share.org/ for more details and to pick up old instalments. It’s dominated by visual artists at the moment, I’ve been the only published fiction author in the mix, (quick amemnd, because it turns out Brigid is a published non-fic author and I didn’t know!) but I anticipate that changing. People can ask questions via the website, and we try to answer them. Thus far the focus has mostly been on practical, businessy things, but this week we’re going to be talking about inspiration. I’m prepared to bet someone will ask my least favourite question. Hence the pre-emptive grumble.

“Where do you get your ideas from?” It’s not hard to answer – “by being alive and paying attention”. What troubles me is the question itself. It pre-supposes a number of wrong things and I’d like to take a moment to pick that over.

1)It prioritises inspiration over graft. This will usually go with words like ‘gifted’ and ‘talented’. Most of all creativity is work, not a magical event that only happens to a special few. Anyone who puts in enough effort can do good and creative stuff. Without developing skills and understanding, and learning your craft, no amount of inspiration can help you.

2) It postulates inspiration as something that comes from outside. Every time we talk about where we get our inspiration ‘from’ we place the source of creativity outside of ourselves. Again, that’s about making it magically inaccessible. Only people who can go to that special other place get to bring back ideas, we are encouraged to think. Bullshit. There are more ideas out there and in your head than will ever be realised. Everything has the potential to be an idea. Inspiration is a process that happens inside you, grasping a potential idea and seeing what to do with it. There are more questions to ask and possibilities to chase than there is time even to consider, much less act on them. Inspiration is not a scarce resource, it is the water we swim in, we just need to realise that.

3) Asking where ideas come from suggests that getting ideas is difficult or unusual enough to merit thinking about. It’s easy. What is difficult, is getting good ideas, ideas that will work, that other people engage with, that can be made real and so forth. The difference between daydream inspiration and the vision to make something, is knowledge, experience and occasionally sheer luck. The more of this you do, the better able you become to spot a workable idea in amongst all the alluring rubbish. It’s also often the case that having just one idea is worthless – certainly from the perspective of writing a novel. You don’t need one idea, you need a whole load of ideas that can be woven together into something new.

Be alive, pay attention, do things, think about stuff. Experience, experiment, live. Then you will notice that there is more inspiration than you know what to do with, and after a while, you’ll start knowing which bits of that you might meaningfully run with. What matters is nurturing the inspiration you get, honouring your own vision, and putting in the work needed to turn ideas into realities. It troubles me enormously that we perpetrate myths about creativity and inspiration that are untrue, create unreasonable expectations of creative people, dismiss the actual work involved and discourage the majority from thinking inspiration is available to them.

There is no magical difference between successful creative people and everyone who wants to be an artist/musician/actor/author/dancer/poet. Ability is about effort and time. Success is ability, marketing, networking, people skills and taking good risks. Without the work, any idea of luck is irrelevant, and probably has more to do with getting those other ingredients all lined up anyway.