Another habit to consciously cultivate is the habit of keeping a written record of your creativity attempts in a notebook, on file cards or in your computer. A record not only guarantees that the thoughts and ideas will last, since they are committed to paper or computer files, but will goad you into other thoughts and ideas.

EDISON’S NOTEBOOKS. Leonardo Da Vinci was Thomas Edison’s spiritual mentor and his notebooks illustrate the strength of their spiritual kinship. Following da Vinci’s example, Edison relentlessly recorded and illustrated every step of his voyage to discovery in his 3,500 notebooks that were discovered after his death in 1931. His strategy of keeping a written record of his work was  a significant key to his genius. His notebooks got him into the following habits:

1          They enabled him to cross-fertilize ideas, techniques and conceptual models by transferring them from one problem to the next.  For example, when it became clear in 1900 that an iron-ore mining venture in which Edison was financially committed was failing and on the brink of bankruptcy, he spent a weekend poring over his notebooks and came up with a detailed plan to redirect the company’s efforts toward the manufacture of Portland cement, which could capitalize on the same model of the iron-ore company.

2          Whenever he succeeded with a new idea, Edison would review his notebooks to rethink ideas and inventions he had abandoned in the past in the light of what he recently learned. If  he was mentally blocked working on a new idea, he would review his notebooks to see if there was some thought or insight that could trigger a new approach. For example, Edison took his unsuccessful work to develop an undersea telegraph cable variable resistance and incorporated it into the design of a telephone transmitter that adapted to the changing sound waves of the caller’s voice. This technique instantly became the industry standard.

3          Edison would often jot down his observations of the natural world, failed patents and research papers written by other inventors, and ideas others had come up with in other fields. He would also routinely comb a wide variety of diverse publications for novel ideas that sparked his interest and record them in his notebooks. He made it a habit to keep a lookout for novel and interesting ideas that others have used successfully on other problems in other fields. To Edison, your idea needs to be original only in its adaptation to the problem you are working on.

4          Edison also studied his notebooks of past inventions and ideas to use as springboards for other inventions and ideas in their own right. To Edison, his diagrams and notes on the telephone (sounds transmitted) suggested the phonograph (sounds recorded), which notes and diagrams, in turn, suggested motion pictures (images recorded). Simple, in retrospect, isn’t it? Genius usually is.

Walt Whitman was another genius who collected ideas to stimulate his creative potential. His journals describe an ingenious technique he developed for recording ideas. Anytime an idea would strike his imagination, he would write it down on a small slip of paper. He placed these slips into various envelopes that he titled according to the subject area each envelope contained. In order to have a place for each new idea he encountered, Whitman kept ideas in many different envelopes.

Whitman, whenever he felt a need to spawn new thoughts or perspectives, would select the various envelopes pertaining to his current subject or interests. He retrieved ideas from the envelopes, randomly at times or, on other occasions, only those ideas relevant to his subject; then he would weave these ideas together as if he were creating an idea tapestry. These idea tapestries often became the foundation for a new poem or essay.

Following are guidelines for keeping a written record:

1. Collect all interesting ideas that you encounter from brainstorming sessions, ideas you read about or ideas you create.

2. Record them thematically in a notebook, in your computer, or on note cards and file them by subject (E.g., Organizational improvement, sales presentations, new markets, new product ideas, etc.) in a file box. In the event you need further information about an idea, indicate the source where you found the idea. Cross reference any ideas that may fit into several different categories.

3. Once you have developed a fairly extensive idea base, there are several methods to glean insight from your collection.

Whenever you experience a problem, retrieve ideas from your file that you feel may apply to your need. Spread the ideas out before you and review them. Use the following suggestions to select the ideas most suited to your needs:                

1. Select ideas containing attributes closely related to your subject’s attributes.

2. Once you have selected several ideas from the larger group, prepare to apply the ideas to your current needs. You may realize that the entire idea applies or only one procedure or portion of the idea applies. Likewise, ideas may have to be modified in order to apply them to the situation.

3. Combine and apply appropriate attributes or procedures from two or more ideas.

Geniuses recognize the essential merits and attributes of a good idea and can adapt these elements to their subjects, thereby creating a new idea. Many original ideas are second hand, consciously or unconsciously drawn from a million outside sources and used with pride and satisfaction. Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company, once said that his simple genius was the ability to create something new from the ideas and inventions of others.

                                                               MIND POPPING

When you keep a written historical record of your ideas and problems, you initiate a thinking process and make possible a phenomenon that George Mandler, a leading researcher in the problems of the consciousness, calls mind popping. Mind popping is when a solution or idea seems to appear after a period of incubation out of nowhere.

The act of recording your thoughts and ideas about a particular problem plants the information into your long-term memory and also into your unconscious. While consciousness plays the important role in our daily lives of restricting the boundaries of our actions, in the unconscious we can activate complexes of information without boundary. Information held in long-term memory can be processed in parallel in the unconscious and find its way into conscious thought. An innovative idea emerges not in any real-time sequence but in a mind popping explosion of thought. This is characteristic of analog processes.

Suppose your notebook contains:

1. Information about the problem you are working on.

2. Information about other ideas, concepts and other problems you are currently working on.

By periodically reviewing your notebook, you activate all the recorded information in your conscious and subconscious mind. You have now set up a mental system of network thinking where ideas, images, and concepts from completely unrelated problems combine to catalyze the nascent moment of creativity. This necessarily nonlinear thought process can occur unconsciously, and not necessarily in real time.

Recording your creative work plants the information in your subconscious mind and somehow activates relevant patterns so it can be processed into a mind popping solution, even after a long delay during which the problem is abandoned. In the 1970s, Frank Wilczek of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., deduced how the nuclei of atoms stay together, one of those rare “knowing the mind of God” discoveries. His breakthrough occurred when he was reviewing a totally different problem, in fact, a completely different force of nature. When suddenly he experienced a mind pop, and realized that a failed approach in one area would be successful in another.

Archimedes got his sudden insight about the principle of displacement while daydreaming in his bath. According to legend, he was so excited by his discovery that he rushed naked through the streets shouting, “Eureka!” Henri Poincare, the French genius, spoke of incredible ideas and insights that came to him with suddenness and immediate certainty out of the blue. So dramatic are the ideas that arrive that the precise moment in which the idea arrived can be remembered in unusual detail. Darwin could point to the exact spot on a road where he arrived at the solution for the origin of species while riding in his carriage and not thinking about his subject. Other geniuses offer similar experiences. Like a sudden flash of lightning, ideas and solutions seemingly appear out of nowhere.

That this is a commonplace phenomenon was shown in a survey of distinguished scientists conducted over a half-century ago. A majority of the scientists reported that they got their best ideas and insights when not thinking about the problem. Ideas came while walking, recreating, or working on some other unrelated problem. This suggests how the creative act came to be associated with “divine inspiration” for the illumination appears to be involuntary.

The more problems, ideas and thoughts that you record and review from time to time, the more complex becomes the network of information in your mind. Think of thoughts as atoms hanging by hooks on the sides of your mind. When you think about a subject, some of these thoughts become loose and put into motion in your subconscious mind. The more work you put into thinking about a problem, the more information you put into your long-term memory by systematically recording them, the more thoughts are put into random motion. Your subconscious mind never rests. When you quit thinking about the subject and decide to forget it, your subconscious mind doesn’t quit working. The thoughts keep flashing freely in every direction through your subconscious. They are colliding, combining and recombining millions of times. Typically, many combinations are of little or no value, but occasionally, a combination is made that is appreciated by your subconscious as a good combination and delivered up to the conscious mind as a mind popping idea.

Michael Michalko is a highly acclaimed creativity expert. To learn about him visit: https://imagineer7.wordpress.com/about-michael-michalko/

To learn about his books visit:https://www.amazon.com/s?k=michael+michalko%5C&ref=nb_sb_noss_2

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