Nothing ever comes from nothing

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“Out of thin air.”

Have you ever heard someone say that? “Out of thin air”?

Typically people state that something has come out of thin air as they seemingly appear to pull an idea out from nothing, as if from thin air.

You, too, may have felt at some point or another in your life that an idea simply struck you, as if the solution to a problem or a great idea for a project came from nowhere and suddenly appeared in your mind. The feeling of having an idea come from nothing feels very much like lightening striking in your brain, or like a lightbulb illuminating in the dark (now you see where the lightbulb icon in creativity comes from, right?).

Of course, nothing ever comes from nothing.

The belief that some ideas just “hit us” from out of nowhere is false.

Ideas – especially the really great ones that seem to come out of thin air – are the result of our brains working tirelessly, subconsciously, to connect past experiences and thoughts and other ideas together in order to form new ideas.

It took Thomas Edison more than 1,000 tries to create a functioning, practical, electric lightbulb.

When he finally came up with the working, nearly perfect idea for his lightbulb design it seemed as though the idea came from thin air, but (as we know) the successful idea really came from the thousands of failures Edison had worked on just before it.

We cannot, despite how badly we wish it were possible, come up with ideas literally from nothing. Every idea you have is a result of something you’ve seen or experienced in the past. That’s how creativity works.

The more information and ideas and unique experiences you go through, the more your brain has to rely on when it needs to come up with a new idea down the road.

So, the next time you need a good idea, sitting around and crossing your fingers in hopes that the idea will just “hit you” isn’t nearly as effective as reading through old journals, going for a walk in a familiar place, or conversing with an old friend. In-fact: try doing all three of those things today and see if some ideas don’t suddenly strike you, out of thin air.

I bet you’d be surprised.

Photo by the very talented Shandi‒lee.