Where do novel notions come from? And how does inspiration just pop in people’s heads? In modern times we’re led to believe it’s some mysterious talent that happens to the lucky few born with some mysterious gift. Poppycock! Inspiration follows a process that starts with the imagination and leads to creativity for those bold enough to get their hands dirty.

Creativity, imagination. and inspiration do start in a mysterious place, the most mysterious place we know—the subconscious. But how ideas get there and how they come out is not so mysterious, just messy and illogical. But the process does follow a pattern we can all follow. For to come up with something inspired and new, we must dive into something old and familiar—our well of memory. 

Inspiration doesn’t come down from some divine place above, it bubbles up from below. A below within ourselves we can feed, nurture, fall in love with, and share stories with. The fuel and sustenance that drives this love affair is a conscious effort to create a wellspring of memories the subconscious can feed from, enjoy, and love us back, by providing novel and unexpected answers to our queries and curiosity. Memory is a crucible that we feed by injecting our thoughts and feelings in order for them to mix and match so they can ferment and grow new life in the forms of images and ideas.

Creativity is characterized by inventiveness and facilitated by a vivid imagination. Imagination is defined as the “power to create mental images of what has never been actually experienced”. So. it’s all about making intense, curious, and audacious imagery in the mind. Mental Models charged with emotion to make them memorable. Creativity and the imagination work best with mental pictures.

Taken from: Architecture of the Imagination.

Jeff Hoke is the author and curator of the Museum of Lost Wonder, which exists to encourage the curious to explore a lost way of looking at the world.