Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Habitual thinking and the fragility of new ideas

I have often had a thought, say, in the middle of the night or in the shower (that most productive of thinking time) and tell myself "I should write that down". Being unable to, I then usually think, "If it's a good enough thought it will stay with me. It will soak into my consciousness and come back to me at a relevant moment."

But it never does.

I realised recently just how frequently this occurs and how many thoughts were dissolving in the quotidian grind. Old familiar thoughts have the inertia of repetition to make them normal, and so they easily recur when one faces a similar situation again. Thought gets into habits, follows grooves worn by the drip of previous thoughts. But new thoughts are fragile. They have to be nurtured or lost.

Moral: write it down.

14 comments:

Doug Forbes said...

I agree.

I think it is definatley one of the skills you learn (or mature) during a PhD. My supervisor is a strong proponent of 'lodging things away in the sub-concious'. It's an incredibly powerful tool, but my biggest problemis remembering to take them back out the sub-concious and into the concious again.

But then again, I suppose they will pop out of the sub concious when they are ready.

On a similar vein, I recently started a small notebook to write down numbers and quotes and stuff cause I am terrible at remembering them!

Megan said...

the shower as thinktank - know it well - if only I had a waterproof laptop on the wall...

Name[d] said...

I got a journaling program for my computer that is backed on another hard drive. One of the best things I have ever done.

psychodougie said...

like that one much better than my t-shirt idea.

reminds me of that seinfeld episode where he goes around trying to figure what he wrote on a piece of paper in the middle of the night.

perhaps some such ideas are best resigned to the annals of dreams - there's enough going on in waking life as it is. maybe there's another happy reality where all the good ideas thought and promptly forgotten hang out together and laugh about what might have been...

byron smith said...

Doug - yes, exactly. I'd always thought that these great ideas must be around somewhere in my subconscious. But if they are, they are very well hidden!

Megan - yes yes yes. Make it happen please.

Brent - nice idea. I'm glad it works for you.

Dougie - I bet they also have a great supply of single socks.

Doug Forbes said...

They make these for use on construction sites:
http://www.terralogic.co.uk/product_info.php?cPath=21&products_id=56

Sarz said...

Thats very true!

Jason Goroncy said...

I'd pay big bucks for a white board and pens that work in the shower.

byron smith said...

Jason - ditto!

Doug - Are they waterproof?

Megan said...

doug - the rugged laptop - thats what I need with my under school ages boys around....

back on the shower thing, maybe you could have a remote version of voice dictation software, that types up your thoughts on your pc as you muse away out loud during your morning ablutions...

Christopher said...

Taking a bath would solve the shower problem and need for NASA designed waterproof notetaking equipment.

But sometimes I think packing it in and buying a pickup would be preferable to all this thinking and writing things down - in or out of showers.

Annette said...

i'd have to agree with chris... i could be a happy truck driver :) (that's what a pickup is right?)
At any rate, i'll be happy the day i can read a book in the bath without a pencil and highlighter present

byron smith said...

I'd be happy to have a bathtub at the moment...

(And for those contemplating switching jobs, here is the one often think about: http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/drivers-ranking-up-as-unemployed-catch-a-taxi/2009/01/14/1231608794625.html)

byron smith said...

Let me try that again.