How Do Ideas Come To You?

by Bob MajiriOghene Etemiku

I wouldn’t be able to know about you and how ideas come floating to you from whatever source. I wouldn’t know when ideas suddenly invade your subconscious like some marauding army and refuse to broker a truce until you give them life by setting them down on paper. You remember John Donne’s ‘A Dialogue Between Body and Soul’, a metaphysical conceit that had both soul and body arguing on which member constituted a nuisance to the other’s chances of breaking free of the other? Okay, if you don’t remember that one, surely you must know something of EM Forster’s homo fictus and Homo sapiens; the one a creation of the other’s figment of imagination? Well never mind if you cannot remember some of these incidences. All that these writers want to say is that ideas and the way you conceive of them don’t have a fixated formulae.

Some people certainly can recognize when those sneaky little bastards and personas and voices creep into their head and tell them things that otherwise may just be classified as figments of the imagination. As I do try to recollect, I recollect Wordsworth’s ‘Preface to the Lyrical Ballads’, where he pointed out that a lot of creativity is ‘spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling’, mostly recollected in a tranquil state of mind. I think I agree with Mr. Wordsworth particularly that part that has to do with recollections in tranquility. You see, this idea of the state of creativity hardly plays discordant tunes with that other idea of the Aeolian Harpsichord – it is said that that musical instrument just lies there dormant until the winds from the muses strums it to life. I also read it somewhere that the whole thing has something to do with the way a conductor harmonizes the sounds from a smorgasbord of musical instruments. Whether or not some of our life and the ideas play out in the manner of that Aeolian harpsichord is something that may be of interest to us.

But I beg you to forgive me for all of that initial circumlocutory bullsh*t. I couldn’t immediately go about telling you how it is that sometimes one is bereft and drained of ideas and studies in a brown room all day – imagine all of the garbage that living in a big city like Lagos leaves in your mind – there’s a lack of everything that should give the mind ample room to grow and be as healthy as it can ever be. A very big contrast it is with the Keatsian ‘Mansion of the Mind’ where every room in that auspicious mansion of his tells something of the uniqueness of the owner of every different room. I didn’t want to put you off at once by telling you my own side of the story; that in the seclusion and eerie comfort that either the bathroom or the loo offers, there, my thoughts nibble me, pinch me, gnaw me little by little and dare me give them have some air.

The one thing about thoughts in the loo or in the bath is that they are usually very distinct. They are clearer than the ones you have in your sitting room or in your car.As you walk in and strike that familiar pose, you find out that to the North, East, West and South you have only those four walls that shut out the rest of humanity. Those four walls seemingly have a symbiotic relationship with either the literal walls of a classroom or those of the classroom of life. There, you are utterly alone, sometimes in your birthday suit or in your very bare essentials. Shut in there and all by yourself, you purge yourself of all of the waste accruable from ingesting and digesting food and drink that seemed at first very attractive and very palatable. At that critically quiet moment, the principles guiding Voidante as a philosophy espoused in Wole Soyinka’s The Interpreters take firm root.

While the loo and the bathroom provide the solitude and some solace that is the prerequisite for ruminating on the cud of ideas, for others it is not like so. We were told in a certain circle that there were people who couldn’t engage in any form of creativity unless they took large doses of opium. One of them began to be insane and before anyone could say ‘ST Coleridge’, the worthy had become a mental doughnut outright because despite those portions of opium, he could no longer find that spark which ignited ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’. It is from here it began to make some sense that about 90% of those in the world of creativity – musicians, writers, sculptors, authors, scientists, athletes, and just about anyone who’s is an active participant in the creative process does something, if not to induce but enhance their creativity. My brother, Bob Marley, was a staunch believer in the marijuana concept; and nearly all champion athletes today from their godfather Ben Jonson to Marion Jones to Justin Gatlin have all had their fair share of scandals involving the use of performance enhancers.

My interest is not in all of these other people who perform with the demonstration of their physical endowments. My focus is on you who perform with an exertion and an exercise of your mental faculties. How do you do it? How do you generate your ideas? Do they come naturally, sneak up on you in the loo or you do the Bob Marley thing? I’m asking not because I’m just curious but want to be able to generate ideas like you do, but not the Bob Marley or Coleridge way, that is.

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1 comment

jo April 23, 2007 - 11:25 am



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