Friday, May 23, 2008

Where Do Ideas Come From?

My mother is a skilled, experienced pastry chef, and a few of my aunts are creative in various ways. Where do they get their ideas for pastries, home decorations, lesson plans, and how to appease a colicky baby that won't fall asleep at three o'clock in the morning?

I don't recall my mother using recipes, but I imagine she had to have read them along the way and added her unique spin to her signature peach cobbler, pineapple upside-down, and German chocolate cake. How did my aunt teach elementary school for over thirty-five years without burning out? Yet another aunt has a knack for decorating and rearranging furniture in small and large rooms in different configurations, replete with hanging plants and framed family photos that seemed to have required one of those crews from a reality home makeover show on The Style or Learning Channel.

My maternal granny had dancing ability, and her husband cooked from scratch without recipes. Is creativity genetic? Are some of us more creative than others?

I've read and reread books on creativity and idea generation over the years, and still return to the premise that there are no original ideas. The delivery or execution of something tried and true is what makes it unique. Everyone's an expert and no one is an expert.

Will reading On Becoming A Novelist or The Art of Fiction by John Gardner generate ideas for writers? I purchased The Seven Basic Plots a few years ago for Morningside Writers Group, but found it cumbersome and tedious. Better than we workshop our fiction, screenplays, and creative nonfiction than rely on formulaic approches to writing.

Are there any original ideas left in the world? What makes a person, place, or thing unique? David Lynch offers his opinion on this topic in the following video:

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