Sunday, May 03, 2009

Islands of Ideas

The other day I was working on a story when a new idea unexpectedly came into view.

One moment I was looking out over a vast, blank sea.

The next I could detect the slightest variation in surface tension--waves were breaking differently, the color was a shade off.

Something had drawn my attention to that spot on the surface, and I put aside my current project for a moment and swam toward that spot to find an island where before I’d seen only water.

And, naturally, I climbed out of the water to explore this new landscape–to see if it was a place worth inhabiting.

I was drawn to this place by some inner impulse, some curiosity or intuition telling me that I might find something interesting, but it's still too early to decide if I’ll stay for long and explore this new landscape further.

After a few days I may decide it’s just a mound of sand and sea grass and mosquitoes–without the resources to support life– and I’ll go back into the water and return to my current project or keep swimming toward another island, in search of another idea.

I like this notion of ideas as islands, places hidden from view which suddenly emerge on the horizon, offering a home for us to explore before we head off in a different direction, searching for the next idea, the next project.

And I like the notion that we come upon these islands of ideas unexpectedly, catching sight of an idea out of the corner of our eye when we’re looking at something else.

It’s part of what I love most about swimming--the unexpected discoveries hidden in the water... and never knowing what’s ahead.

For more on finding ideas, visit:


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laurasalas said...

Bruce--great analogy, and it made me think of two things.

1) An Island Grows, by Lola Schaefer - fabulous rhyming picture book about how an island is formed from an underwater volcano.

2) The boaters who actually captured the birth of an island in photos. ( Amazing story - but no less amazing than the mysterious process by which we come up with ideas!