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Where Do Ideas Come From?

Remember how I told you that I had four thoughts that came out of reading Elan Mastai’s All Our Wrong Todays? You can go backwards to the first thought or second thought, even if you haven’t read the book because these thoughts aren’t tied to the text but rather float above the page. In other words, reading these posts will not ruin the book, and at the same time, they’re not (I think) confusing.

This is the third thought.

And it’s actually about thoughts.  Like where thoughts come from.

Sometimes the most amazing idea pops into your head, and you while you’re happy that you had it, it brings with it a certain frustration: why can’t you conjure these great ideas whenever you want (or need) to have one?  Or am I the only one who thinks that?

I think that a lot: with book ideas, with blog post ideas, with solutions to problems.  I feel great in the moment — Yes!  I have something to write about! — but I also feel massively frustrated that those ideas don’t occur to me when I need them.  When I force them.  When I am staring at the screen, feeling the clock ticking.

Mastai tackles this idea in Chapter 75 (all the chapters are very short — only two or three pages sometimes) on page 179,

“Okay,” she says, “but what if every creative idea that someone has is unconsciously borrowed from that person’s experiences in another reality? Maybe all ideas are plagiarized without us knowing it, because they come to us through some cryptic and unprovable reality slippage?”

“Does that mean, like, the version of you that had the idea in the other reality also stole it from another version of you in yet another reality?” I say.

“I don’t know,” she says, “maybe we can only access a limited number of, like, adjacent realities and we’re constantly shoplifting ideas from different versions of our world and mistaking them for our own insights.”

So when you have an idea, you are borrowing it from another version of yourself that exists in another reality.  Except that there is no idea Eve, a version of you that sparks the original idea.  Instead, each version borrows what is commonplace to another version but is mind-blowing in your own reality.  So perhaps MicroblogMonday was mind-blowing (okay, it’s not mind-blowing, but you get the point) in this reality, but I borrowed it from a version of myself in another reality where there is only microblogging, therefore it’s on the same level as cereal or umbrellas — just a thing that we take for granted without considering it too hard.

Your thoughts?


1 Cristy { 10.03.17 at 11:46 am }

I’m trying to wrap my brain around this, so bear with me.

I think there’s a big misconception that big, paradigm shifting ideas come de novo. Usually there’s a pattern that’s being followed or an underlying foundation that set the stage for this shift. Steve Johnson actually has a nice talk about this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NugRZGDbPFU

Now, the idea of new ideas coming from an alternative universe is an interesting thought. Maybe it’s because we started down that same road, but had a shift?

2 Lori Lavender Luz { 10.06.17 at 11:31 am }


I wonder where I can go to find what I need for a project I’m working on? Like you say, when I try, it’s hard to manifest. I’ve been not trying for awhile now…

I’m a bit mind-blown from this thought. Think of all I could tap into if I knew how to tap into.

3 Valery { 10.07.17 at 5:46 am }

I’m confused. If we can think about the other realities, then those are our thoughts, yes? no?

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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