As someone who has been living from ideas as a story inventor on the most diverse playgrounds for practically his entire professional career, I very often hear sentences spoken with great astonishment, such as: "I imagine it's totally difficult to have ideas on command!" or: "What you always come up with!". And again and again the question: "What's the best way to get ideas?
There are two Austrian answers to this:
1. it depends.
2. hm ...
TOO LAZY TO READ ON? THEN LISTEN TO ME:
In the blogcast, I read this recent blog article to you. With emphasis, of course!
So it depends on what you understand by an idea": Often, ideas are nothing more than familiar things put together in a new way that no one has ever done before. There are a lot of tried and tested methods for this, so-called creativity techniques, which work differently well in different tasks. Craft, then, or brainwork plus heartwork.
It definitely helps if you know a lot, know, see, hear, sniff, expand your horizon. Don't pile up the same things like a Babylon, but look for the complementary, the crazy, the irritating. Be restless, shift perspectives, out of principle and out of life-giving curiosity. The more familiar things one has at one's disposal, the more can be put together anew. Even I understand that much about statistics and probability theory (but not that much more). I think that's how Picasso worked and Steve Jobs too. That's how, under the right circumstances, with a hearty application of work and a pinch of luck in all fields in which you are creatively active - in your job, as an artist, as a designer of your living environment - what good art is supposed to do comes into being: provide surprising impulses for the next (mental) step. Then good art is created that does what Ed Ruscha once described: "Bad art makes you say 'Wow! Huh?' Good art makes you say 'Huh? Wow!"
But now to the much more important, now to the Hm ...
When someone says they had an idea, when someone is celebrated as a genius and a person is applauded for their incredible ideas, it makes me go: hm ... Especially when that person is me.
The stories about "great people who have grandiose ideas" wobble at one weak point: they are false.
They are legends at best, but probably fairy tales that we have been telling each other for infinite moons. Even when Picasso and Steve Jobs are starring in them. Because I'm pretty sure that we humans don't have any ideas at all. The ideas have us.
I remember the summer of 2015. The book for the musical "The Wonderboys" was in statu nascendi, and in a wonderful place in the South. Yours truly is lying in the shade by the pool with the Wonderboys in labour (quadruplets, as we know), fingers flying over the keys, events tumbling over each other - scenes are emerging, dialogue is bubbling. Home birth, so to speak. Gradually, time and space and everything else are forgotten, and while the rosé warms up within reach, it does get a bit chilly on my short-boned bones, and see (or don't see so much any more): it's dark all around. Finally I realise what has actually happened in the last few hours. I have not, as one would like to think, written completely obliviously, I have been writing along with what has been happening in the special world whose entrance door reads "fantasy". I was allowed to enter through this door, was inspired, was inspired. What there was to read on the pages of the musical book did not come to me, it came to me and wanted to come out through me so that it could soon go on stage and bring joy. And it did, a whole lot of joy in fact.
It happened several times that in a film whose script I wrote, or during the performance of one of my plays, I thought a scene or dialogue had been built for it by the director and actors. But when I looked through my files, I saw that I had written it all. Word for word - written down. But I couldn't remember it. A miracle? Not at all! I merely made myself available as a secretary for something that was there, just not legible for everyone.
It's not just me, and sometimes it happens breathtakingly fast. Paul McCartney wrote one of the most popular songs of all time just like that after getting up. "I have no idea how I wrote that. I just woke up one morning and it was in my head. I didn't believe it for about two weeks," Paul McCartney told. There are similar stories from Kanye West, Adele, Blur, Led Zeppelin, Lady Gaga, the Stones, Elton John & Bernie Taupin ... you name it.
When I write a text, it's usually with a very clear picture in my head of what it's about and where it's going. In the end, I often end up with something completely different, and I don't have the slightest idea why. Most of the time it's much better than my plan was. - To be honest, of course I do have a definite idea why. See above ...
Sometimes I sit at my writing desk and tinker about something - a powerful concept, an effective strategy, an inspiring workshop procedure, a moving keynote dramaturgy, a snappy formulation - and out of the blue it suddenly pops out of me. The truth is: out of the blue it slammed into me, a one-hit wonder.
And like many others, I sometimes see something great and new and remember that I had the same idea before. Wrong! I didn't have it. The idea had me, and it was in a hurry. Because I didn't help her into our world, she looked for another helper to help her walk.
There you go!
For example, the idea for the iPhone came to me around 2001. When I - a founding member of the digital bohemian movement and an evangelist of mobile working since time immemorial - naturally got a PDA (personal digital assistant) named Palm Pilot I knew what I absolutely wanted: all this had to go into the mobile phone and the iPod as well. The idea, of course, understood in a second that it was definitely not going to work out between the two of us, was in a hell of a hurry and was already on its way to Cupertino. There Steve Jobs made her the robber's ladder, and in 2007 she clambered into our lives. I had the idea for the iPhone for a short time then, today I have an iPhone, and I think it turned out best for all of us.
But if the right idea has chosen you as the right person, then things start to move. Then you are completely absorbed in your work - you are in the flow, as the wonderful Mihály Csikszentmihályi described it. You are absorbed in your work, you open up, you blossom into your fullness. You accept your task and fulfil it. As a tangible thank-you, it fulfils you in return. Task fulfilment for a higher purpose that shines far above your ego. You grow towards it.
The higher purpose may be an entertainment musical that is enjoyable and gives the audience a few impulses to think, to think about one's own ego running between one's feet, about what is usually called self-realisation without much thought, about understanding what is important to one and what one therefore does or does not do for it.
The higher purpose may be a risotto prepared according to the rules, i.e. with love and devotion, which therefore nourishes body and soul. Or a necessary business start-up, involvement in the parents' association or Fridays for Future, or any other idea whose time has come. She knocks on someone's door and hopes to find shelter for the time of her birth.
The higher purpose is not higher than anything else, weightier, more significant, more spectacular. It is higher than us, than you and me and our self-interest. The higher purpose wants to get out of our cosy little ivory tower and into the world, into its sphere of action. The outlet valve for this purpose sits at the very top of our pyramid of needs, drawn for us by Abraham Maslow, in the 1970 model in which he set up a parlour above the self-actualisation of transcendence. Up there we grow beyond ourselves, contribute something that goes beyond ourselves. That is essential to us humans, a vital need. That's exactly why it sits at the top of the pyramid of needs and not in the shopping cart at Zalando. I have written a little more about this here.
More than that, transformation to positive growth is the task par excellence of us human beings on earth. We are the transporters, bridges and interpreters for ideas that want to get out of their world into ours; that push into our world, have to get in, because they have something to do here. No other species can do that except us. That - also that - is what we are here for.
What do we have?
However, there are not only good ideas; after all, there are not only good people either. But what is a good person? What is a good idea? The answer to this question usually lies in the perspective and context, and in what is ultimately done with the idea. So the answer is once again: "It depends ...".
And already we are in the middle of the thickest glorious dilemma, that is, where we can show who we really are with our decisions. What we tell ourselves and others about who we want to be is no longer enough. The dilemma is about action and truth. How we concretely decide "between a rock and a hard place". Whether and how we act on it concretely. Caught in the dilemma between two positive ideas or between two bad ones as the only way out. There the devil and the gods, our demon and our daimon, sit shoulder to shoulder and look at us questioningly. Usually the demon winks at us seductively, as befits his particular demonic skill. For as we know, the devilish thing about the devil is that he makes us believe he does not exist.
What idea are we helping to bring into the world? This is how we show who we are. Which idea do we support because we think it is right, good or really good? Perhaps even one that corresponds to our values, even though it does not benefit us or even harms us? In this way we build a supporting pillar for our inner story, around which we erect the palace of our truth.
If we look out the window here and now, or in a newspaper, or online, or anywhere else you might mean by outside, we see one thing: the world needs positive ideas and people who willingly build bridges to them. The world needs a whole new story that must not end at self-realisation, where you make yourself a hero. We need to climb a step further, to where we become mentors for each other, where we make each other strong in the complementary. Because that's how the whole comes into being. And bang, I have another idea: let's become complementors. That would be something! Hm...?
CompleMentors - these are strengtheners, not conquerors. They are the protagonists in a new story where collaboration, not dominance as in the old story, determines coexistence. These are the ones the Dalai Lama meant when he said, "The planet no longer needs successful people. The planet desperately needs peacemakers, healers, innovators, storytellers and lovers of all kinds." Good idea, isn't it?
You are hereby officially invited to join. The KompleMENTORs clubhouse is located on the eighth floor of Maslow's Pyramid of Needs. By the way, there's free high-speed internet for everyone, as well as fresh apple strudel and live rock'n'roll around the clock.
You're coming over, aren't you? One is definitely already there, namely my grandmother, old Story Dudette. She's just helping a few ideas onto the trampoline for the skilful somersault into our world. It looks like her bulging notebook, the cover of which reads, "New Story. New Glory."