On: September 13, 2011
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About Sebastiaan Smink
Study: BA degree New Media (University of Amsterdam) MA student New Media (University of Amsterdam) Work: Passion: Electronic music


Inspiration is the basis to a lot of creative processes. If it’s writing, composing music, painting, blogging or even finding a good subject for your thesis. Inspiration is needed for getting new and innovative ideas. So, as an electronic musician I’m constantly looking for new music, pieces of art or interesting stories that can give me a new and fresh look on my own work. And maybe those projects give me that sudden burst of inspiration for a new song. I believe that an inspired mind will help me getting my stuff done.

Since inspiration isn’t something you can buy at your local grocery store, an important question to ask is “where does inspiration come from?”

A quick search inside Wikipedia’s encyclopaedia tells us that in the ancient Greek inspiration was seen as something divine or holy. ‘In Greek thought, inspiration meant that the poet or artist would go into ecstasy or furor poeticus, the divine frenzy or poetic madness. He or she would be transported beyond his own mind and given the gods’ or goddesses own thoughts to embody.’ Following Greek culture one could only get inspired by getting in touch with the gods, or muzes as the Greek would call them.

Not only the ancient Greek, but also modern-day cultures believe that inspiration is something that happens outside the control of the human mind and body. When we look the word ‘inspiration’ up in the Cambridge online dictionary, it describes it as ‘someone or something that gives you ideas for doing something’ or ‘a sudden good idea’. These definitions give us the idea that inspiration isn’t a stable, or static entity that can be grasped. Instead, inspiration must be seen as a concept that is in flux, and comes and goes on its own will.

Although it seems that no one exactly knows where that sudden burst of inspiration comes from, Steven Johnson argues that there are certain ways that will lead more likely to a good ideas than others. In his search where good ideas come from Steven Johnson found that good ideas never come at ones. He states that good ideas need time to incubate. Next to that Johnson claims that good ideas need certain spaces to develop. This is why he sees a direct connection between the sudden rise of human innovations during the Enlightenment and the introduction and popularisation of the English thee- and coffeehouses.

Johnson believes that the English coffeehouse was crucial to the development and spread of what he calls one of ‘he greatest intellectual flowerings of the last 500 years.’ According to Johnson the English coffeehouse was a space where people from different backgrounds could come together, drink coffee, and share ideas. The English coffeehouse was in this sense a place where ‘good ideas could have sex’. This is according to Johnson fundamental for innovation and the development of good ideas.

According to Johnson’s theory the internet seems like the perfect environment for people to share their ideas. Unfortunately this isn’t always the case. Although the internet can be used for learning, and sharing information, there are also others who claim that the net isn’t making us brighter. Instead the internet would make us less productive then we might have thought in the first place. Not only is the internet distracting us from our daily goals. According to some the World Wide Web’s also making us dumber.

No matter if the web is making us brighter or dumber, I think good ideas can come from anywhere. Next to that I believe that it is the search for inspiration itself that will provide you with new en creative ideas. And it was this blog post that provided me with some good ideas for my Master thesis. Eureka!

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