I'm aspiring to do the same with sci-fi short stories... Reading them but also asking the question of, "How can this be built?"
What tools and tactics do you use to stimulate ideas and brainstorm?
Limit your work in an artificial way. It will magnify and focus your thinking.
By way of a silly (and classic) illustration: try writing in a way that forbids inclusion of that common Roman glyph found prior to F and following D.
(And actually think about it! Don’t just opt for words you found in a book of synonyms!)
Would concur strongly with this. I try to do this by cutting down laptop utilisation. Play with kid or watch TV in the place of non-productivity. Stick to 4 hours a day of work.
(I did it too, woo hoo!)
Science fiction was initially attractive because of the former, but the way the morality stories made me think about the world around me is what’s made me want to delve deeper and deeper into the classics.
The Mote In God’s Eye on xenophobia and the seemingly intractable problem of diplomatic entente between nation states where one or both are threatened with survival.
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress on revolutionary colonial politics.
Speaker for the Dead on the corruption of ecologies that we fundamentally don’t understand.
Real literature has never felt accessible to me. Sci-fi gave me a joy of reading that Candide never did.
When I am ready to start exploring that idea - a cup of coffee, someplace quiet, no screens, a pencil, and some blank sheets of paper turned horizontally (landscape).
I visually sketch out the ideas and use labels and arrows to further explain. Despite my terrible drawings, I still find "a picture is worth a thousand words".
I'll add that no one is really terrible at art, they just aren't practiced. Even those folks that have a predisposition towards art do not do well without practice and training muscle memory to do it. Most folks can get a general grasp on sketching and basic art concept if they want to.
I mean yeah its interesting to look at state of the art for the time "Game of Life" and building tic tac toe AI "computers" out of match boxes and human power, but I'm curious where you find that kind of stuff in 2020?
Recently here on HN, like this morning, there was an interesting discussion of modern pseudorandom number generation and that seems like the kind of topic that could have been turned into a "Computer Recreations" column or modern media equivalent.
The closest answer I can come up with is some of the language koan sites or maybe project euler or rosalind.info project.
If you like doing EE hardware/firmware but only 4 times per year I guess there's the Adafruit box program. I have them all and they were all pretty fun, but only for a couple hours per quarter...
I guess the experience I'm trying to replicate is like a lot of gen-x computer people I once got a copy of SciAm magazine in the mail and two hours later I'm writing a very slow but working mandelbrot fractal program in interpreted basic on an 80s home computer, not because the execution speed was fast but because the development time was fast and it was a fun and exciting experiment.
There must be something like that today?
I remember around the turn of the century a guy who mapped out infrastructure for some grad school project getting his term paper classified for having way too much detail about electrical switching infrastructure weak points. However even in 2020 there's plenty of stuff to look for on military bases both famous and not famous, and its also fun to take overhead journey of something like the Empire Builder railroad line and compare it to my memories of taking that ride in person. Also national parks look interesting on google earth, at least to me.
Lots and lots and lots (and lots) of ideas written down and left un-judged. I’m taking anything that pops in your head. Sometimes getting an idea, any idea, written down gives the brain the chance to expand and improve on it over time even subconsciously and this is where tons of good ideas develop.
One side note here: don’t assume you’ll remember an idea you have. I can’t count how many times I’ve thought, “oh I’ll write that down later” only to forget what it was entirely. Stop whatever you’re doing and jot the idea down somewhere. This is especially annoying at 2AM.
I watched a writer’s room work on a comedy show I enjoy and they talked about how for each episode they aim for about 30-40 jokes, which requires around 300-500 ideas be written down. No idea was mocked and everything was written down and taped to the wall. Most of the time good ideas evolved from some that were initially half-baked.
Do you delete it all because you're worried about keeping it? I keep my notes but rarely return to them.
Cool link. I need to spend more time with this, Peter Drucker is brilliant. It sounds like you and I write similarly, I am a meticulous outliner.
I really like voice dictation as a writing alternative, but I need to be really focused. e.g., I tried "freewriting" by voice when I was cleaning the bathroom once, and it turned out sloppy.
Thanks for starting this topic btw, great question and I'm really liking the discussion.
Take one axis of interest, say "speed", quantize it into a few blocks, e.g. geological, glacial, lifetime, milisecond
Then another with as little regard for the first as possible, let's go with "monsters". e.g. titan, rabid elephant, blob, murder hornets.
Then you just fill out each box as to what the heck the intersection of those two axis mean.
Geological murder hornets? "You see what you don't know about carribean islands is that they are attacking north america and that's why it's trying to run away ..." crazy stuff like that.
If you do this with more carefully chosen, work related axis it works well too. You have to fill out all the boxes though, the hardest ones end up being the most interesting.
This also works with coming up with present ideas.
The whole process is intended to force juxtaposition and consideration of ideas which you normally couldn't come up with via associative links.
Cardio is magic when you start to get fit and are able to push through - your brain starts to wander and interesting ideas (and takes on ideas), just come to you. At least that is my experience. You could try it for yourself.
It's not really being actively maintained, but since it's in an open data format if it ever stops working you can just export your data into whatever format org-mode uses.
Usually I don't get around to doing projects until at least 5 years after having the idea, so my ideas tend to develop little by little over the years until the time is right to finally pursue them. So this format lets me keep track of the various ideas as I slowly do more research and put more thought into them.
I have a daily journal where I log ideas/observations but it's organized by date on GitHub (and I get paranoid about having it in the cloud, TBH). The idea of organizing around ideas or topic trees makes more sense, though.
Right now I'm a few years behind just due to building my startup, although I have a 20K+ word post that just needs one last round of minor edits heh.
In terms of topic trees, yeah the main benefit is that forcing yourself to organize your ideas this way helps you to have new ideas, just based on being able to see the relationships between things that you wouldn't have otherwise been able to see. This is my blog post that goes more in-depth on the benefits:
Other than that, I hang out in forums like HN and certain subreddits that seem to spark ideas in me. Some of them are hobby specific (I've got at least a dozen ideas for apps for search and rescue), but some just come out of left field or I look for a problem I have and want to solve.
I will also add that I use org-mode and live in emacs, so taking a note is just a couple of keystrokes away, and disk storage is cheap. I can always just archive it later, so I've never liked the idea of throwing out so-called useless ideas (was from some time/task management system, can't remember which), as I can always set the state to CANCELLED.
1. I find someone to talk it to out loud. Even if that person isn't knowledgeable in the field.
2. Write it down as if you were doing #1 describing it to someone as if they were 5. You would be surprised how soon you find holes and/or new insights.
3. Read sites that encompasses vast knowledge of many subjects and not vertical to singular. A site I like to visit is:
https://www.sciencedaily.com/ Vast latest articles and finding covering every subject.
4. Talk to people and also think in their shoes if they heard such an idea by putting yourself in their world view.
5. Find a movie that is in that realm of an idea and let your mind wonder.
6. Listen to something benign like trance/house music.
But most of all I like #1 where I talk to someone but moreover, talk to someone who has a breadth of knowledge and not necessarily vertical to any one in particular. Ideally a nerd be good.
Start writing 2001 from memory, but the protagonist’s name is Bill and the killer computer is named MAL-500. “Oh, so I’ll wind up with a shitty knock-off of 2001?” No, you’ll quit writing this dumb thing way before then. But you will slip into flow, and find it easy to put this nonsense aside and get one of your good ideas moving.
(The apes are “evolved” by the Monolith by inspiring a tickle-fight. The Monolith has a creamy caramel center. The star-child takes one look at earth and yeets out.)
When coming up with inspiration I usually try to think backwards. Backwards in the sense that I might start with some idea which is concrete and, start considering it's more abstract forms. So, for example I would consider a pencil as a concrete thing. I might start considering writing instruments. I might then start considering HIDs. From there that's a big world to explore.
When I saw that my first name was available with the .chat TLD I knew it should be one of two things: a redirect to my calendly, or an immediately-available IM session with me when I'm available (just for fun).
Built the latter this morning to have an excuse to buy the domain! You can see it at Alexander.chat.
tl;dr: combine ideas from different domains, talk with friends who have interesting ideas, work on things that interest you
Basically, reduce all forms of stimulus and let your mind space-out without any intention.