The 4 Steps to Getting an Idea
The 4 Steps to Getting an Idea
Video essayist Kirby Ferguson is known for his ongoing series of videos Everything is a Remix, that tackles one topic and tries to shows its many connections, ripple effects, roots etc. His video essays were actually the first ones that I remember seeing circulating, before video essays became the new black.
It’s been some months now that Ferguson is playing with different formats of videos to accompany his central pieces, including behind-the-scenes videos explaining his process. His latest video, The 4 Steps to Getting an Idea, does exactly what the title says: it shows the flow Ferguson goes through to help his brain produce ‘focused’ ideas. Not random ideas.
Focused Ideas vs. Random Ideas
This is a personal distinction than I’m adding to the mix that supports Ferguson’s explanation. Ideas bubble up from your subconscious to your conscious. It seems like there’s nothing much to do about it and yet, everyone who’s been playing the creative game for some times know that what you do is directly linked to what you create. In other words, to find interesting ideas you need to lead an interesting life.
That’s great. But that will produce random ideas. They can be amazing ideas, but what do you do when you need to produce ideas for something specific? When you’re writing a screenplay, or creating a graphic novel or, of course, making a video essay?
Then you need to prepare your subconscious field for the focused ideas to bubble up.
And how do you do that? Well, here is what Ferguson preconizes:
Step 1: Create Boundaries
This is by far the most interesting step, in the sense that most people wait for ideas to pop up, when there’s something you can do about it. And as Ferguson says himself, if you miss Step 1, you’ll get stuck in the end, when the time comes for the ideas to flourish.
Here is what creating boundaries means: “Create boundaries within which you are going to explore. Otherwise, you can get lost in the wilderness. So you need to start with a question like “I want to know about New York Disco in the 1970s.” And you should be widely interested in what lies within those boundaries. This is a crucial stage because you can either give yourself too much direction, or not enough direction. When you’re struggling with an idea, it’s often a boundary issue. You need to either tighten them, or broaden them.”
Step 2: Consume Everything You Can Within Those Boundaries
Step 3: Digest the Research
“Study the materials, organize them, arrange them into a narrative, try to group things together, create a map of what you’ve learned. Make sense of the material as best you can. Push yourself to the max. Do not leave this phase too early.”
Step 4: Drop It
“Until your subconscious complete its work and an idea or multiple ideas are ready to pop-up. And when that times come, you should be ready to capture it.”
The last point here is particularly important. Don’t get stuck with no phone or pen and paper to capture your idea when the muse finally shows up. It happens.
These four steps might seem intimidating and too long. Especially the “drop it” part that asks you to have faith it will turn into something worth fighting for and creating. The last step definitely feels like a random idea game, but in this context, it’s more of a step back to let your brain breathe.
And if you’re not familiar with his work, Ferguson is here for the Long Game. His videos can take months to get completed because his level of research and digestion is organic. I’ve backed up his campaign to produce this is not a conspiracy theory, an 8 part series of videos that should ultimately form a feature documentary.
So far, 3 videos out of 8 have been released, in over two years. I have zero doubt Ferguson will complete it, but the level of quality he goes after along with his process to reach it out makes me think it might take a long time to be completed.
You should definitely watch the video below, it’s a short one as you can see, and a useful one! Also, get acquainted with Kirby Ferguson’s work and support and follow him, he is one of the storytellers that’s been lifting up the community with great patience and generosity.