Beware Idea Incest: What the f*ck is an idea?

Habits … reduce man to the status of a conditioned automaton. The creative act, by connected previously unrelated dimensions of experience, enables him to attain a higher level of mental evolution. It is an act of liberation — the defeat of habit by originality. Arthur Koestler.

I know that dissecting the frog will kill it. But when it’s your job to be creative, you can’t just wait around for the next good idea to slap you across the chops. It’s good to know what you’re looking for. I’d like to share a metaphor that helps me during the development process.

Ideas are small machines in our head. Although they’re made up of smaller parts, together they have a life of their own. The sum is greater than the whole.

Take apart your computer. At what point is it not a computer anymore? That gets me every time. What about songs and stories? They lose their identity pretty quickly.

Big ideas can become smaller parts of even bigger ideas. Smaller parts can be exchanged to make different ideas. It’s like engineering.

Paintings are made of brushstrokes. Songs are made of sounds. Life is made of people. Experience is made of moments. It’s much more complicated than that, but you get the idea.

The universe is made up of particles. That’s how complex and elegant ideas can get.

When you’re trying to develop a new idea, you need lots of different parts to play with. Those parts have their own parts. And too few or too many parts will ruin the machine. You need to experiment to find balance.

The Mona Lisa wasn’t the Mona Lisa three brushstrokes in. Leonardo kept going. But if he’d carried on too long, he’d have had a mess on his hands.

Idea incest happens when the same parts are forced together. Nothing new is possible. It’s like sticking the first bar of a song on repeat, or living the same day over and over again. Films based on films based on films based on films make really, really bad films.

In the moment of making films, I want to share my observations of life, not of other films. Alexander Payne.

The point is, you’re not going to know until it happens. You might not have a complete build yet, but you have a million parts to play with.

Look around. There’s work to be done.

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