It is a wholly expected irony that I have tried to write this bit on the difficulty of getting ideas together so many times. Each sentence you see written has been deleted, re written, become various drafts, sandwiched from all those drafts, had all the drafts deleted so as to not cloud my thoughts and then finally appear again as a self commentary of above mentioned tribulations (fingers crossed for this one)
The fact is ideas are everywhere, we can’t escape the things, we can’t function without them, they are the sparks to which all things are conceived and are infinite in number so it shouldn’t be so hard to come up with the right ones when we need them. As a species we have a reasonable handle on ideas, society just about functions OK so hopefully that means more good ones are getting through the net than bad ones.
As a photographer I rely on good ideas to make a living so without them I'm stuffed. Somewhere amidst all those daily decisions, Google searches and needless zombie plans there has to be a few great ones to work with, especially when actively trying to find them.
It seems however quantity isn’t the problem. The particular kind of ideas that matter, the original gems which produce great images/stories/objects aren’t like normal ideas, they are fresh and new, they work in a different way to others and no matter how many 99u articles I read or TED talks I watch I feel no closer to having this remedied. At least in all this frustration I think I understand some of why a good idea can be so hard to find, which is a start at least.
First up the majority of ideas it seems are merely functional ones, vital to survival as a human. We use them everyday when we are choosing what to eat, what to watch, who to text etc . Their constant use means they have grown into large statured types with heavy feet and bellowy voices. The smaller, rare formed ideas required for creativity are often too fragile for this kind of arena so find themselves barged out.
The best ideas then tend to be found when the ocean is calmest, reading a book, having a bath etc. There they are free to gingerly emerge from their nooks to present themselves for consideration. The calmer you are the more they are free to run around, be studied a little more, allowed to grow.
The more interesting that little idea is however the more likely that desire to capture it for later grows. Soon enough that idyllic meadow you call a mind is littered with marauding thugs looking to club that little guy over the head and sling him in the back of an unmarked van. The ideas which roamed so peacefully a moment ago are now scurrying around in a panic looking to retreat at the nearest opportunity.
After a while however, and with a little practice you can train your functional side to tread a little lighter, be a little gentler so with a bit of luck you can lovingly scoop the whole thing up and save it for later with very little drama. A job well done and another picture in production.
That problem is that’s not really the problem. The real issue is when you are relying on these ideas for a living. No longer is it just a case of moseying on through your day plucking ideas like perfectly ripe apples from your garden of plenty.
Often you are working to a deadline or needing to complete a collection. The urgency and pressure ensure your mind is no longer a wonderland of possibility where perfect ideas roam free and peaceful. You need ideas on command but ideas and commands rarely sit well in the same head space.
The traditional response is to employ your accumulated techniques to clear your mind, wash out those more disruptive thoughts and bring a little bit of serenity back in. Maybe go for a massage, a coffee, maybe a swim somewhere. These things can work and often do but inevitably there are times when pressures from all sides close in the rule book is ripped up.
That once nurturing nest of a mind can become an apocalyptic exclusion zone with ugly toothless crones like job security and rent payments hurling their shoes at you if you even look in their general direction.
No right minded concepts would be seen dead in a place like this and as the famine sets in so does the panic. In this barren wasteland only the most confident concepts of old still walk freely. Get in a tough spot and these might get bundled in the van and given a strategic shave. You might grab a few snippets and off cuts from the last few ideas lying around so they get bolted on for a bit of tinselling too. If you are lucky you might end up with with some semblance of a complete concept but other times it can look like what it is, a blind panic with some bad dental work.
My advice when lost in the fray is to find your calm, sew neatly and have a few hats on hand for decoration. I might not be the prettiest but a complete piece with rough edges is better than a sea of scraps to trip over the next time.
And with that I'm free, phew!