Whose idea is it anyway?

First of all, let me say, there is nothing scientific in this article.

The notions, unless otherwise attributed, are just my thoughts and ideas.

Or are they?

Have you ever had an idea just ‘pop’ into your head?

What about an entire poem or song? Maybe even a story?

Have you ever had an idea; only to find out that another has had almost the exact idea at roughly the same time as you with no chance of collaboration or leak?

Where have these ideas come from?

Do you really think you have thought them up when they have come fully-formed and unbidden?

Sometimes I am not so sure.

Sometimes an idea pops into my head; an idea with no connection to any current thought. It may take me by surprise and make me think: Why didn’t I think of that before? Or rather, why did I think of that at all?

I can’t explain the force that at times propels my hand across the page, fervently trying to keep pace with and capture the words as they spill forth, lest they escape to a region from which they would never be retrieved.

Sometimes I’ve written stories, which I may, or may not, have submitted to a publisher, only to find another very similar in print not long after. How can this be? There was definitely no collusion. My story had been written before the other was in print; and the other would have been underway by another publisher before mine had been submitted.

Have you ever noticed that often two movies on a similar topic or theme are released almost simultaneously? Is this coincidence or planned?

I know that sometimes songs are very similar, and in fact, there have been court cases over certain bars and riffs. I am surprised this doesn’t happen more often. How can new combinations of notes still be arranged? How difficult it can be to get a melody out of one’s head. How much more difficult it must be to be certain whether that melody is one of your own creation or one that your ears have captured.

image courtesy of openclipart.org

image courtesy of openclipart.org

I remember hearing someone suggest, many years ago, that there are many ideas out there (floating around somewhere in the universe?) ready to be picked. Sometimes they are picked simultaneously by different people in different places around the world.

I wasn’t too sure about that, but it did provide an explanation, of sorts, for the duplication of ideas.

A few months ago, I listened to a fascinating TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert: Your elusive creative genius.

The focus of Elizabeth’s talk is a little different from my own, but she did offer some thoughts on this topic also.

I was particularly interested to hear that in ancient Greece and Rome

people did not happen to believe that creativity came from human beings . . . People believed that creativity was this divine attendant spirit that came to human beings from some distant and unknowable source, for distant and unknowable reasons.

The Romans called this entity a “genius”. A genius was not a clever individual. It was the spirit that would help shape the artist’s work. The artist did not need to take full credit or responsibility for the work, as the work was that of the “genius’ working through the artist.

Now that seems to support the notion of ideas arriving fully-formed, as does this next one:

Elizabeth went on to talk about the American poet, Ruth Stone, who described how “she would feel and hear a poem coming at her from over the landscape” and she would have to run back to house in order to “collect it and grab it on the page” before it thundered on to another poet. I won’t quote the whole story here. Please follow the link to read the rest. It may surprise you as much as it surprised me!

Looking for a little more content for this article, I came across this blog post by Amanda CraigSynchronicity, or when writers have the same idea

Amanda writes,

“Synchronicity is when two or more people have the idea at the same time. Science is littered with examples of this. Darwin only published his Origin of the Species because a fellow biologist had also deduced the concept of natural selection, and sent him his own book in manuscript; several people can claim to have invented the computer, and so on. So, too, in literature. I still remember a Spectator Diary Susan Hill wrote when she found out that Beryl Bainbridge was working on a novel about Scott’s doomed expedition to the Antarctic. She had to abandon it. Rival biographies of the same person are commissioned simultaneously, and sometimes even films (like the two versions of Les Liasons Dangereuses).”

Now, is that just what I’ve been talking about?

Follow the link to her entire article to find out what she thinks about synchronicity.

Still eager for more, this article about Multiple discovery explains that scientists, also, are similarly burdened and, according to Robert K. Merton

Sometimes the discoveries are simultaneous or almost so; sometimes a scientist will make a new discovery which, unknown to him, somebody else has made years before.

So where is all this leading me?

It is simply to introduce the poem,  “A leaf floated down” which came to me as I was preparing for my day. The thoughts were not connected to any others of the moment; the first verses simply wrote themselves, and the parts that I am least happy with, are the parts I laboured to bring forth. I hope it is my own!

I’d love to know what you think about this synchronicity that we, as creatives, often experience. Please share your thoughts!

4 thoughts on “Whose idea is it anyway?

  1. Bec

    Hi Nor,

    I really love this poem, and it’s great as always to read your thoughts on creativity. I haven’t yet watched the TED talk you included, but look forward to it. I second the comments from Glenn, it seems like an idea or concept gets a whole lot of energy behind it – all the factors in society are creating the space for that story, or generating momentum toward a particular scientific breakthrough. It’s so fascinating to watch these trends emerge. I’m certainly very glad that the poem caught onto you to be written!


    1. nco04662 Post author

      Thank you for your comment, Bec, I’m pleased you enjoyed the post. Developing creativity in children is certainly one of my passions so I spend a lot of time thinking about what it means and how it can be encouraged. I fear too often an originality of thought is sacrificed to the top-down curricula imposed in many educational systems internationally. I wonder how long it will take the collective creative wisdom to overthrow the tyranny of the enforced conformity!
      I’m glad the poem caught me too. I wonder why . .


  2. Windsor N.

    Wonderful poem Nor!

    I either read or heard in a lecture not long ago that these ‘paradigm ideas’ both big and small usually come to people at a certain time because they have to. The explanation for this was that once a society has progressed to a certain point of knowledge there are inevitable ideas and thoughts that will unfold as a result. It’s a spectacular phenomena and one that I think we’ll see realised in the next 50 years in even more spectacular ways, particularly given how much collective knowledge we now share as a species!

    Your poem and these thoughts have given me a much appreciated and hopeful thought for the day! Thanks!


    1. nco04662 Post author

      Hi Glenn,
      Thanks for your very interesting comment and contribution to the conversation. I had not considered my thoughts to be ‘paradigm ideas’, but I am certainly aware of the concepts of collective consciousness and a tipping point, which I think you are alluding to. I am excited about the spectacular phenomena you predict for the next 50 years, trying hard to imagine what they might be. I really appreciate the positive spin you have put on this as we walk into the future!



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