I have always loved to cook, it’s probably because I like to eat a lot. Once I had the idea to make a new kind of candy. I remember writing down all the different flavors my 8-year-old palette enjoyed: Sweet, Sour, Salty, Minty, Bitter, Savory, and Spicy. Even as a kid I was pretty systematic. I sorted out all these and figured out which two I liked the best. I chose Minty and Sweet. I was going to make my own kind of candy and I was going to do it by combining two existing flavors in a way that I hadn’t seen done before.
Creativity, Educational Intention
Unknown to my young self this is how most ideas are formed. I recently read my favorite author’s memoir “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” by Stephen Kings and inside he talked about how he got new ideas for books. Specifically, he talked about how he came up with the idea for “Carrie” it was a combination of his experience cleaning a girl’s locker room as a young man and later in life reading about how during puberty some children might exhibit supernatural abilities. He combined these two ideas to write a wildly successful novel about an outcast girl who discovers supernatural powers.
King is very in touch with his creative process, due to the fact that he has written fiction for the majority of his life and writers tend to be naturally introspective. Writing isn’t the only place where this happens, the same process exists in every creative field. Whether it’s drawing, painting, cinema, music, or creating anything from apps to entire businesses. Just think of how many times something has been described as a combination of two things.
“What’s Rick and Morty?”
“It’s what Back to the Future would be like if it was rated R.”
“Who is Lil Dicky?”
“He’s like if Louis CK became a rapper.”
“Why do you like Pokemon Go so much?”
“Because it projects the nostalgia of my childhood into my everyday life through my cell phone”
It’s not even that complicated of a process either, you just take two things that don’t really seem to have much to do with each other and force them to occupy the same brain space for a bit. For example, I want to build the habit of reading 100 pages per day but I’ve been awful at achieving this goal. I want to try and think of a new process of how I can get myself to achieve this goal. The next thing that comes to mind is water, so I let these two things occupy my mind for a bit, trying to combine them. Try this before reading ahead and let me know what you come up with. If you don’t think of anything relating to water try combining my goal with another unrelated idea and see what happens. If you don’t care about my reading goal substitute it with a goal that you have been struggling with and see if you can find a solution to that. Leave me a comment with the solution you think up!
This is how my mind worked when I combined these two ideas. First, I think of what would happen if I literally combined a book with water, ick. Then I think of other water related things: waves on a beach, rain, drinking water, and swimming. Waves on a beach tie to habits since they are both repetitive motions. Waves happen over and over at the same spacing, similarly, well-implemented habits happen every day at the same time. As far as drinking water goes I have been building the habit of finishing a gallon of water a day and the best way for me to track this habit is to fill a gallon jug of water up in the morning and make sure that it has all been drunk by the time I go to bed. This has worked really well for me because I have a visual gauge of progress which is my gallon jug and it’s simple since I don’t have to count glasses of water.
Is there a way I could project this idea onto reading 100 pages a day? I start to imagine a process where I have two bookmarks, a tracker bookmark which is at the page I am currently on, and a target bookmark which is 100 pages away from where I started that day. As long as my current bookmark ends where my target bookmark is then I will have accomplished my goal. This helps because it means that I don’t have to read all the pages in 1 sitting, and I don’t have to write page numbers down which have both been hindrances in my past.
Sometimes combining two ideas is a failure, like when I was a kid and decided that the best way to combine the flavors of mint with sweet was to cover round white and red peppermints with melted Hersey’s chocolate. However, just because I wasn’t able to combine them well doesn’t mean that it can’t be done, peppermint patties and mint chocolate chip ice cream are two great ways that sweet + mint = success.
Next time that you need to think of a unique solution to a problem or need a new idea for a work of art try combining two things and see what happens. Some of the ideas might be ridiculous, some might be violently unrealistic but if you try to force two ideas into the same brain space for a long enough you can come up with a unique solution.