This is an excerpt of the book Processing Creativity: The Tools, Practices And Habits Used To Make Music You’re Happy With. If you would like to download an excerpt or buy a copy you can do so here.

After we're inspired, our ideas aren't always ready to perspire. Our minds usually need a bit of time to do further development so that when we're ready to perspire, it can pour out of us effectively.

Where “Random” Ideas And Sudden Epiphanies Really Come From

“Creativity is the residue of wasted time” Albert Einstein

One of the worst parts of short articles, memes and the rest of today's internet culture is that we rarely hear all of the amazing details within these stories. The part of the story left on the cutting room floor is usually an idea that was being tinkered with in the creator's head, both consciously and subconsciously, since it's pretty boring to show a person thinking in a movie.

A great idea never comes to anyone that hasn't been doing some research. It’s not possible to understand how to execute an idea unless you’ve been tinkering with related concepts. Even though we can't always trace where ideas come from, we know they don’t come from the ether or the blessing of a muse. Ideas go through an incubation period where your mind isn't thinking about the idea you had in a way that's evident to you. Instead, your mind is toying with this idea in the background to make connections that can later lead to an epiphany. This semi-distracted state where you’re partaking in menial tasks allows your mind to nurture your hunches into epiphanies.

The apple falling on Newton's head when he discovered gravity was not some divine epiphany; it is a myth. Instead, he was tinkering with an insane breadth of work in physics and this was the chance encounter that stimulated his connected mind. A famous case of this is Charles Darwin talking as if he thought of his theory of evolution in a sudden epiphany. Historians studying Darwin later went through his journals to find he was slowly coming to this "epiphany" over months and months of research. The same went for Tim Berners-Lee when he invented what would become the world wide web. For ten years he was making concepts that were close to the hyperlinks and connectivity the web is built on.

Most great ideas get developed over time. The idea for a great song may not be so great when you first build the skeleton. But, with a few more great ideas, this could be a song that becomes your best work. Great work won’t fall on top of your head just by chance - it involves development.

How To Get Your Brain Into An Incubation Mode

Graham Wallas’ The Art of Thought made one of the first attempts to define how the creative process works. One point he made in the book is that usually, a great idea has a lead-up to it. Then, after the initial idea is formed, there's a subconscious period where the idea incubates and you finally see how to put it into practice. You shouldn't expect that once you get a great idea it will be fully formed or immediately executable. Continuing to take in inspiration while tinkering with your ideas helps your mind develop these hunches into more realized ideas. You can even nurture the incubation of ideas by using a variety of techniques.

Musicians are regularly accused of being lazy (my last book may have done it a dozen times), but what looks like laziness is often incubation. To incubate ideas, the brain needs to be in a state that’s not fully engaged while paying slight attention to another task. This is evidenced in University of California research, which found that “engaging in simple external tasks that allow the mind to wander may facilitate creative problem solving.”

Many scientists believe the brain in an unconscious incubation mode can actually do more complex work than when you’re consciously thinking about a creative work. This means taking a break when you get frustrated can give you the time you need to further develop an idea. Taking walks, exercising, commuting and that odd state you're in when half awake in the morning or at night is when so many of the best ideas come out, since your brain is in a state where it can subconsciously nurture your ideas. This semi-distracted mindset allows us to be engaged in enough thought to give our brain the resources to figure out the problems going on in our minds and later form an epiphany.

 A University of Central Lancashire study found doing boring activities such as attending meetings, commuting or tedious writing exercises nurture divergent thinking. The bad news is video games and TV are too engaging for the brain to incubate. You can't force your brain to incubate a thought – all you can do is devote time to activities that encourage incubation while seeking out more inspiration that may nourish an epiphany.

Conscious Incubation

Incubation can also come in the form of consciously tinkering with ideas. A University of California study found that daydreaming allows your mind to go into incubation, which may give a clue as to why you may see your favorite musician staring into space all the time. It’s said that Mozart was judged to be quiet and aloof since he never had his attention in the room he was in. When reviewing Mozart's notebooks for his scores, he had dramatically fewer cross-outs than the majority of composers, since he was constantly developing ideas in his head.

In this day and age where we're constantly looking at our phones for entertainment, we should remember that the time we spend in a state of low attentiveness is the time where our minds can play with the ideas we've been accumulating to develop them into bigger ideas. In the age of constant distraction, it becomes less common to sit alone with your thoughts, trying to connect things. Breaking the habit of looking at your phone any time something isn't holding your attention can be crucial to the nurturing of good ideas since this practice can be effective for many artists.

This is an excerpt of the book Processing Creativity: The Tools, Practices And Habits Used To Make Music You’re Happy With. If you would like to download an excerpt or buy a copy you can do so here.