Inspiration

Have you ever wondered where inspiration comes from?  You’re sitting there, minding your own business, when suddenly a bright idea will pop into your head, without warning.  Where do these ideas come from?

Sir Terry Pratchett (may God rest his superlative soul) had a theory, espoused in his Discworld novels, that inspiration was a cosmic particle.

These particles of inspiration would rain down from space intermittently, in much the same way as meteors (aka shooting stars).  Very occasionally, there would be an ‘inspiration shower’.  Like a meteor shower, there would be an exceptionally large number of inspiration particles falling in a certain area for a short period of time.

Now, according to his theory, whenever one of these inspiration particles passes through the brain of a human being, they have a bright idea.


When I was young, I loved to paint.

When I was young, I loved to paint, and I had some measure of skill.  At the time I remember observing that there were, broadly speaking, two types of painter.  There were the careful, methodical, detailed painters, who would craft their works of art painstakingly over many hours and days.  I was squarely in that camp.  Then there were the real artists (as I perceived them), the volatile, impressionist geniuses who would throw the paint at the canvas and produce a masterpiece in less than an hour.

I loved all the impressionists, particularly Van Gogh.  I think part of the attraction for me was knowing that I could never do what they did.  Whenever I threw paint at the canvas, it looked like it had been created by a toddler.

Different artists work in different ways.  Some nurture their creative ideas slowly and with great care, cultivating their development as a parent with a child.  Whereas others seem to spew forth ideas with reckless abandon, and you wonder where they all come from.

I recall reading an interesting interview a few years ago with Bono, the lead singer of U2, who was discussing U2’s approach to song writing.  He observed that some of their songs took an age to write.  They would keep changing things, reshaping melodies, playing with different chord structures, and eventually the song would come together.  Whereas other songs, like One, would be effortless and materialise in front of their eyes over a single afternoon.

I have come to the conclusion though, that Terry Pratchett’s theory seems to match my experience the closest.  I seem to have 3 or 4 good ideas every year, and they pop into my head seemingly from out of nowhere – usually while I’m lying in bed.

Of the two games I currently have in development, both of them came to me in this way.  Despite being very different games, the keys ideas for each of them came suddenly and unbidden.  Maybe there’s a Van Gogh hiding in me somewhere after all.  Although, having said that, I have since spent countless hours fleshing out and refining those nascent ideas, so maybe not.

How do your best ideas come to you?  Slowly over time?  Or like a flash of (cosmic) inspiration?

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Jonathan Hicks

Jonathan is the director of Maven Games. He blogs and records podcast episodes several times a week. Whenever he isn't doing anything else, he designs games.

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