September 11, 2007
The Best Ideas Poll: 2007

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Einstein got his best ideas while shaving. Mozart used to exercise before composing. Rene Descartes came up with the Scientific Method in a dream. Three geniuses. Three totally different catalysts for breakthrough thinking.

How about you? Where and when do you get your best ideas? In the shower? Late at night? On vacation? Brainstorming?

Three years ago, I polled 200 people on this very same topic -- a poll that consisted of 34 items and one other category. What astounded me was how many other responses I received -- a veritable Jerry Lewis Telethon of times and places I never once considered as having anything to do with the act of creative thinking.

Which is why our 2007 BEST IDEAS POLL is way more comprehensive. (Notice I did not use the word robust to describe our poll. The word robust is hereby banned from this blog for all eternity). Where was I? Oh, yes -- this year's Best Ideas poll. Interested in taking it? Of course you are. All you need to do is click here. The whole thing will take you less than seven minutes. Its simple. Its fun. And it will likely spark at least a few insights into where and when YOU get your best ideas.

NOTE: The results of our research will be posted here sometime in November, so be sure to check back.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at September 11, 2007 10:37 PM

Comments

One favorite idea source you won't hear reported in our poll is where Viennese composer Franz Schubert got many of his ideas. Schubert often found musical inspiration in his coffee grinder. The chaotic pitches and rhythms it made often suggested themes to him. He'd find himself grinding coffee, hear something "original" and go straight to the piano to hunt for the notes and phrases that sounded like the patterns the grinder just made. This kind of hearing is akin to what psychologists call "clang association."

I don't think Schubert ever tried spilling coffee beans randomly on music paper. That would work for some other aleatory (random) composers.

In general, it seems creative people want to be caught off guard, be surprised, catch themselves in a state of not-trying, not doing. Then the "idea" then feels simply "received." They "notice" it. That feeling of being a passive channel and kind of lucky adds up to being "inspired." It feels like a gift. The artist really isn't being passive so much as receptive, activated in a deeper stiller way, alert and observant, waiting unconsciously, without expectation or ambition, for a gift out of nowhere.

Posted by: Tim Moore at September 15, 2007 03:24 PM

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