Tuesday, February 12, 2008

How to Come Up with an Idea of Your Own

⎯ Read more. Read widely.

⎯ Mull over what you have read, what you have seen and heard in the media, and what you have experienced in actual life.

⎯ Develop some curiosity about the world. Ask “how” and “why” questions about your daily experiences. Don’t immediately decide whether you like or dislike something, but try to understand it first. Don’t be quick to dismiss or condemn ideas that don’t obviously fit into your existing world view.

⎯ Imagine more. Consider the possible alternatives to the way things are.

⎯ Analyze more. Develop the habit of mentally breaking things down into their parts in order to understand how the parts relate to one another and to the whole thing.

⎯ Think “against the grain.” Look for the serious side of a comedy and the ridiculous side of a tragedy. Consider the value of the opposite of what the majority seems to think is true.

⎯ Move. Take walks, pace the room, or sway to the rhythm of your own thought processes. Think with your whole body.

⎯ Eliminate distractions. Turn off the TV and the stereo. Drive with the radio off. Find a quiet, lonely spot to think. Go to the library.

⎯ Browse the Internet. Pick a topic or a site and explore it. Compare and contrast the different sites and pages you encounter. Or browse the book or magazine section in a library.

⎯ Cultivate friendships with people with ideas (and not just those who think similarly to you or share your background or worldview).

⎯ Work puzzles. Play intellectually challenging games.

⎯ Try to understand the “big picture.” Look for connections between things that are apparently far apart from or unrelated to each other.

⎯ Take an interest. Commit. Decide what is important to you, if for no other reason but to define yourself for yourself.

⎯ Participate. Ask questions and make observations in class. Write letters to the editor of your local newspaper. Make recommendations to the manager of the supermarket where you do most of your shopping. Strike up a conversation. Bounce back when the responses are not what you hoped for.

⎯ Frustrate your critics. Occasionally develop opinions that appear to be out of step with what others have come to expect from you.

⎯ Question authority. Even if you choose not to be a rebel, question the motives, reasoning, and communication strategies of those who have authority over you.

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