Where Ideas are Found
This is a new feature called Good Thoughts from Good Folks (GTGF) where I ask a few good folks for their good thoughts on a question I'm thinking about. This week's good folks: Chris Duffy, Esmeralda Kosmatopoulos, Gibson Fay-LeBlanc, & Jeffrey Yoskowitz.
This week's question: How do you go about finding new ideas?
Chris Duffy is a comedian and the host/producer of You're the Expert, a new public radio show.
I talk my way into almost all of my new ideas. Sometimes that's onstage during the one-sided conversation I have with an audience, where a random thought will pop into my head and I'll push to see if it's a full-fledged idea that resonates with strangers. Other times, it's during the more normal human chit-chat at a dinner party. The biggest lesson I've learned is to get specific and keep asking questions. I try to find someone who's passionate and get all the details. You're a biologist? Not good enough. You study how fire ants bury their dead? Now I've got all sorts of new ideas flowing through my brain.
The way the creative process operates for me is so complex and I still have a hard time putting my finger on it. Inspiration comes to me in the most unexpected ways. There will be a sound I hear one day when walking in the street that will (for some obscure reason) remind me of an interesting article I read a month ago online and maybe also a sign I see everyday when I pass by my local deli, an image that struck me in a magazine last week, a poem I learned in school when I was a teenager and thought I had forgotten everything about… and suddenly all these elements will come together and form an image that is crystal clear in my mind and makes absolute sense (at least for me)... Then it's just a matter of materializing it.
New ideas swoop with the egrets along a marsh path. They arrive in books and movies and songs and newspaper stories. They visit my dreams. They look up at me with my son's face, giggling. Mostly, I just need to hear them, write them down in a notebook, let them simmer, and pay special attention when they come back for a second visit, or a third. When new ideas don't come, which happens sometimes, I ask myself, Have you been walking, reading, sleeping, listening, and attending to your loved ones? After a while, they come.
Jeffrey Yoskowitz is a co-founder of Gefilteria, a boutique food business in Brooklyn and purveyor of artisanal gefilte fish, as well as author of the forthcoming cookbook The Gefilte Manifesto: New Recipes for Old World Jewish Foods (Flatiron Books, Fall 2016).
It begins with research. I need to start by seeing what’s been done and what others have already dreamt up. With food and recipes, research can be old or new cookbooks or eating at restaurants (or on the street). Works of food history excite me the most, and trigger all sorts of new ideas, whether its recipe development or new products. With prose, I always start any writing project by first re-reading the books or articles that have moved me.
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