Rod Serling On Where Good Ideas Come From

From brain pickings

The questions of where good ideas come from, what inspiration is made of, why some people are more creative than others, and how we can optimize ourselves for creativity are perhaps as enduring as the act of creation itself.

In this short clip from the vintage TV special Writing for Television, Rod Serling, creator of the cult-classic The Twilight Zone, manages to articulate the combinatorial nature of creativity, as well as Arthur Koestler’s seminal theory of “bisociation,” in a mere sixty-four seconds:

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  1. The importance of creativity is often underplayed in society, despite how the creative aspects of our lives permeate their way into our thinking and expression, forming extensions of ideas that stem from the original creative outlet that was previously expressed. The creative expression we experience and indulge in on a daily basis is often taken for granted and discredited as something that “anyone can do,” completely disregarding the hard work that artists and writers put into their pieces.

    Rod Sterling, the creator of the classic TV special “The Twilight Zone,” expresses the hardships that creators face through metaphorical dialogue. Towards the end of the video, Sterling recalls that when he sits down to write down his ideas on paper, he “bleeds.” The metaphorical aspect of the statement references the hardships that creative minds experience when they create the content that so many people enjoy. Because demand is always high for entertainment, such as television shows, movies, and other forms of art, many creators must overwork themselves to keep up with the demand and make enough money to pay bills or even buy food.

    One instance of overwork was the situation of the 52-year-old animator for the popular anime Naruto, Kazunori Mizuno, who died in his sleep after taking a nap during an intense work session ( The article also states that overwork can lead to stress-induced heart attacks and stroke. Many artists and writers are faced with this danger on a daily basis, as being unable to keep up with demand for this original content can lead to an unstable fanbase, which leads to decreasing sales for the content or content merchandise.

    The main takeaway from Sterling’s overall statement is that the conception of ideas is easy- the difficult part is physically expressing them for the public to see, and being able to live up to their expectations and keep up with the demand. Not only do creators have to deal with the physical danger they are put when they are overworked, but they are also potentially putting themselves under fire for criticism once a new piece of content is released. This also puts the popularity of their content at risk, which means the revenue they gain from their fans decrease quickly. The debilitating stress that is thrusted on creators often goes unnoticed, as the career field itself is often degraded from a respectable, demanding, and highly influential profession to a child’s pipe-dream.

  2. This was a short article but the video was very interesting. I’ve always wondered where thoughts came from and how memories are stored in the brain. I really liked how Rod Sterling said that people create ideas through experiences such as sight, sound, or feeling. In addition, I liked when he said that ideas are like little bubbles floating in the air and that creating an idea or thinking is probably the easiest thing a human can do.
    I’m not sure if anyone else picked up on this but isn’t it amazing how the most mysteriously operating organ in the human body operates so smoothly and with the most ease. Billions of neural connections in the brain connect so that different parts of the brain can send messages to each other. What should be seemingly the hardest thing to do, logically, is actually the easiest for us.
    Going back to the concept that ideas are in the air. I am not sure how you can make an assumption like that. If the operations of our brain are inside our selves then how can an idea be outside of the body? Unless there is a difference between natural thought (ideas that originate outside of the human body) and human thought (ideas that originate from a human’s imagination) I would like to hear more about Rod Sterling’s explanation of this theory. Great article.

  3. Jerome Bruner, a pioneering Harvard phycologist, stated in an essay from the collection called The Conditions of Creativity “there is good reason to inquire about creativity, a reason beyond practicality, for practicality is not a reason but a justification after the fact. The reason is the ancient search of the humanist for the excellence of man: the next creative act may bring man to a new dignity”. I interpreted this excerpt with an open mind allowing myself to reflect upon the subject. It speaks in a broad sense saying that we are not expected to merely understand creativity as a whole for it is a natural process that stems from a collection of data us as humans have gathered from experience and learning. In most cases, creation comes from the imaginable that tie into Bruner’s statement involving practicality and how creativity can often be impractical. This term, practicality, can then be used as a tool that does not measure the realm of which we may accomplish but that of which we have accomplished. Rod Serling gives his point of view on a TV special called Writing for Television. Serling says, “Ideas come from the Earth. They come from every human experience that you’ve either witnessed or have heard about, translated into your brain in your own sense of dialogue, in your own language form. Ideas are born from what is smelled, heard, seen, experienced, felt, emotionalized. Ideas are probably in the air, like little tiny items of ozone.” I agree with this whole-heartedly. As an artist, you are not abnormally gifted and do not have a mind just filled with ideas, there are even times when you may be stuck. Where creativity comes from is interpretation of surroundings. The most beautiful art is the piece that has meaning. Lines on a paper have no meaning until practicality is given to it be means coming from things around it. Creativity does not the find the minds of those who wish for it, but the minds of those who search for knowledge will in turn be gifted with creativity.

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