Wednesday, July 30, 2008

What do you do to come up with ideas?

I attended a fascinating workshop last night called “writing the dissertation: getting started,” given by Stanford’s writing center.

Yes, fascinating. You’d expect it to be boring and blandly utilitarian, but there were high points. Possibly the highest was when the guy leading the workshop told us what certain unnamed Stanford faculty do to come up with ideas.

* One professor apparently comes up with so many ideas in the shower that she’s had a writing board installed directly in it.

* Not just one, but several professors apparently make use of a technique from Cicero and create mental landscapes — apparently, they decide that different campus landmarks represent different ideas, and then they walk through campus, and, somehow, that constitutes walking through those ideas. (I’m not sure I get this at all… does anyone have the Cicero ref.?)

* One professor “uses lucid dreaming techniques” to solve problems.

* One person (this might have been a grad student dissertating) works best on the train, so s/he bought a train pass, and sometimes works while riding up and down from Palo Alto to SF, over and over again…

So, dear readers, what crazy things do you do to come up with or process ideas?