Screw-ups are inventors’ delight or horror depending on how it happens, when it happens and how it is used thereafter. Murphy’s Law says that, “What can go wrong, will go wrong.” And in engineering, it is used as a point of perfect, that the more closely anyone works to get something “perfect”, the greater the chances of errors, mistakes and irretrievably disastrous results become likely.
You can read more about Murphy’s Law at Wikipedia’s entry about it. In art, in music, in writing and sculpting, the same thing is obvious – mistakes happen. And, in engineering, science, math, creating, designing, making, building, inventing and innovating, mistakes can and do happen as well.
Knowing that errors and goof-ups happen is valuable, not project stopping.
Inventing is fun and sometimes the yield is a solution that has not been done before. Whether inventing makes a new thing or an innovation of an existing thing, the process of inventing is enriching and rewarding. Inventing strengthens thinking skills, creativity, problem solving, resourcefulness and improves the abilities to apply many other skills to real life situations and things. It is well worth doing.
There are several ways to approach inventing. One way is to start with a problem that needs a solution and invent solutions, products, processes, systems and innovations that improve or solve for that particular issue.
Another way to approach inventing is to start with nothing in particular as a goal, sit with an array of mismatched miscellaneous things and simply starting playing with them until something else is created. Sometimes it can solve an existing problem or provide a solution that is needed and sometimes it creates a non-utilitarian outcome that is unique and interesting. Often this process itself is valuable because it helps the mind to find other solutions and inventions that awaken along the way throughout the process.
The trick in either approach is to capture, not only the end product and enjoy the process of inventing and resourcing that happens, but also to grab those interim ideas, solutions, thoughts, applied knowledge and other inventions during the process. This can be done by quickly writing down a note here and there or by doing video of the process and speaking aloud those thoughts and ideas or by setting aside those interesting interim steps as they are, when they happen as the inventing is underway.
Briefly – To Invent Something –
Step One – Decide to invent something. Set aside the next hour to be involved in inventing something. It can be 30 min. and for that matter, it can be the next break of ten minutes, if the idea generating part of the process is separated from the action steps to play with actual making. It doesn’t require absolute quiet. Inventing does not require zero distractions. It doesn’t need everyone else around you to stop what they are doing and let you invent something.
Step Two – Give merit to some ideas that you’ve had about things that you’d either like to invent or that need an invention to solve them. It doesn’t matter how big an idea it is or how large an issue it solves. Just because you aren’t a bridge builder, doesn’t mean you won’t be the one who comes up with a sustainable, workable solution to some existing problem with building bridges that still exists today. Even small ideas and small issues that creates headaches for everyone are call for solutions and inventions. Some of these are worth thinking about too. Write them down as you think of them. That starts the inventing creative juices and intellectual skill sets into action.
Step Three – Draw on your knowledge and experiences to bring information to the process. If you don’t know something, google it or look it up in the books around your home that you’ve noticed without opening. Drop those books open at the point your hand opens them and see how that information starts folding into the process. Check details on the internet, but don’t get lost in trails of information. Keep referring back to your paper and pencil, tablet doc or video talk it out loud process to get the new info into the mix. Talk into a tape recorder or a facebook live video, if nothing else to get the idea and information flow recorded as the stages of inventing progress. Later these highlights can be used to trail off into other projects, other inventions, resourcing for networks of other possibilities and possibly, for markets once the invention is at the final stages.
Step Four – Put your hands on something. It can be drawing the ideas, writing them down, but even better is to start touching things and trying them together in different ways towards a solution to make your invention ideas come alive. White boards are great, but getting some items from around the garage or attic into a box and fiddling with them is almost magic in the ways it stirs the inventing process. Make sure and write down, photograph, video or record those ideas and interactions with things during this part of inventing – or they will be lost, because they will change and keep becoming something else or something more as the process of inventing continues.
Step Five – Check what you’ve done. Look at what you’ve created, ideated, modified, innovated, invented along this way and start matching how those ideas and inventions could solve certain problems you’ve had in mind at the start. Would they? Or have they solved something else that you had not really thought of directly but it could do that? Have there been nifty, interesting creations and inventions from throughout the inventing process that could be their own outcome and interest you? These can be either set aside for later or take a moment and decide that there is the direction you’d like to see to conclusion first.
Step Six – Depending on the ideas and inventive avenues you’ve decided to pursue, the next stage of inventing is about making something with those ideas and determining what things from the real world would be required to create it. That can be as simple as determining whether it could be made in wood or metal. And, it can be as complex as looking online to understand carbon composites and where to buy small quantities for creating a prototype of the invention. More drawings help at this point, keep taking notes and recording ideas as they occur. This part of the inventing process is not as mundane as it may seem. The mind will create more solutions here that could also work, will problem solve for lacking access to the exact perfect materials by accessing and resourcing options that could work and will create ideas for getting your hands on materials or pieces of other machines and salvaged or reclaimed things that could be used to make you invention or innovation.
Step Seven – Go create the damn thing, if you haven’t already. Create the inventions and solutions that have come along in the stages of inventing too. Make them. Build them. Invent the same thing again and take one of the other avenues you had considered to see where it leads and how it approaches the problem solving in a new or different way. It will yield surprising and often, astonishing results as your mind draws on the previous experience to refine the invention in new ways. Build a prototype and make drawings either by hand rendering or on the computer using things like SketchUp and drawing apps. Save the interim sketches and ideas as you use those, by the way – and then continue modeling and rendering. Those interesting elements at various stages will remind you of other avenues to pursue as well and serve as part of the inventing process that is extremely valuable.
By the way, check around and there may be a makers space near you where the prototype can be made by you as a member using the tools and resources available there. Most of the makers spaces are reasonably priced and use of some areas / tools / time there if commonly priced ala carte as well as through the membership pkg.
Also check out the Makers Magazine sometime. It is filled with resources for inventing and making.
Standing At The Threshold About To Create –
By Cricket Diane C Phillips, 2008
When I stand on the threshold about to create – entire universes stretch out before me.
Behind me is everything I’ve ever created or wanted to create. Before me is everything that could be created. To either side is everything that exists which has been created by someone already both historically and currently.
Above me are all the things and ideas that have existed only as possibilities and have yet to be created. And, below the edge of the threshold is everything that exists now somewhere.
From the vantage point of this moment in time standing on the threshold about to create, any combination can be made from what is beyond it. Sometimes I choose a goal before entering this threshold because I intend to create something for a particular person or situation and want it to suit that.
To me, the threshold of about to create is like an open door frame standing in the midst of infinity. It is an infinity that moves out in all directions and is filled with possibilities, knowledge, skills, ideas and tangible things already created somewhere, sometime by God, nature or someone. It is all available for me to utilize or create or combine into something new, or rework, refine and modulate into my own creation.
I do usually start with a purpose but not always. And, where some may go timidly over that threshold, I love to stand on the threshold encompassing it all then fling myself into it. I take a leap of flight into that place and soar through its realms.
I love flying through the elements that are there, choosing from them, considering elements that catch my attention and weaving what is being created as I go. I don’t forcibly keep my goal in mind but it is there and I don’t exclude anything. It is all available regardless of my mind’s constraints of limitations and resources.
This means that whether I have the means to acquire something or not doesn’t matter – it is still available for me to use in the creative process. I don’t exclude things because of limitations currently in my life. Anything can be acquired if its really needed to accomplish creating something.
Some people strive within their limitations to accomplish and to create. They exclude what is beyond this threshold that cannot be accommodated by their current means to acquire it. Usually that is whole worlds of things and believe me, it is an unnecessary constraint. I ignore my limitations of known quantities that are currently in my life and offer everything to the creative process without limitation.
Truth is, I can probably get my hands on it if I need it to work with anyway. There is no project too big, too complex or too out of reach to consider. I don’t feel I have to make and original and unique creation of my own exclusively. Mostly I do, but it is not limited to that and it isn’t a requirement of the process.
What I do is to fly through these infinite worlds beyond the threshold and test, play, choose, combine, study, consider and add together like things and unlike things until I’ve created something that suits my purpose. So, the purpose that brought me to the threshold does define what is being created but it isn’t required to have that definition. It can be done without form or definition set ahead of time. I love doing this too when I have no purpose in mind and want to free-form create. What is done in this process may become a painting, an idea, a writing, a musical composition, an invention, a situation or a project but it does beome an end result that is tangible.
I can set parameters and conditions if I want like, “I want something that will do this,” or “I want some things that will suit this or this person.” The process will use that variable to compare and work with everything beyond the threshold as I create. When I happen upon something that doesn’t fit that parameter, if it has taken my notice – I grab it too and bring it with me. I don’t try to figure out how it fits or whether it belongs to some other project or need I have. Later, it usually becomes obvious without me setting my mind on figuring it out or sorting it out to where it belongs.
Finding the creative spark that brings new ideas, new inventions, new creative works is sometimes distant. Creativity can be helped along by using these 12 ways to create something new or by using some of the 12 techniques to begin the creative process.
1. Start by Finding Problems That Need To Be Solved or Solved Better –
The first way to create something new is to look for problems, issues and difficulties that could use a novel creative solution or any solution at all or a better solution than what is in use now. Brainstorming and research are helpful tools for this fact-finding process of noticing problems that need solutions.
Look for “betweens”, where one solution left open a place for another or where no solution has ever been adequately developed. A range of solutions could be created for problems that are not obvious but everyone recognizes from uncomfortable school desks that haven’t changed in over forty years to air quality issues both indoors and in cities from current smog levels.
2. Brainstorm Possible Solutions To Those Problems That Need To Have Solutions –
Brainstorming is a creative process of focusing on the possibilities while opening the creative perspective of what could work. When brainstorming solutions, judgment is set aside and every idea is simply written down on paper, post-it notes, whiteboard or large conference paper tablets. Every thought and approach is acceptable because often, these creative thoughts and ideas will contribute to the solutions which are generated as a result of the process.
Brainstorming for air quality to be improved in cities could result in ideas for big fans, jet engines to blow the bad air out of the city, or paints that dissolve the smoggy air chemically and render it clean. Among those ideas, during brainstorming they may seem silly, but by reserving judgment and disdain – those thoughts contribute to real ways that smog could be dispersed effectively. Allow the space for the brainstorming process to blossom and expand by writing ALL ideas down. Capture all of them.
3. Get a Pile of Junk To Play With –
Aside from methodically seeking problems to solve that need to be solved and brainstorming possible solutions, often a pile of junk of various kinds can contribute to stirring creativity. This does not mean go to the landfill, nor to hoard every thing that can be found. It means having access to some hybrid collection of junk and pieces that could be found at a yard sale, in someone’s basement or attic (that will let you have the stuff), at a science or marine salvage yard, at a vehicle salvage yard or thrift store. These places have random stuff that could become something else.
Once the box or pile of junk is sitting there, it is simple enough to spread it out and start thinking and fitting items with one another to see what is inspired by them. Strangely, this creativity is not as random as some people try to make it by intention, nor is it supposed to be random. It is purposeful creation and creativity using a process of discovery and innovation added to intellect and knowledge about what things could become out of it. This is a great place for experimentation and a very hands-on style of awakening the creative process which can expand from the pile of junk to drawing said invention or idea, writing it out or getting other pieces to make a true prototype of the creative idea.
4. Go Book Shopping, To A Library or To A Book Cafe –
Book stores and libraries are a visual feast for the inventor and creative process if it is approached that way. It is not necessary to read every word, nor to start at the beginning of any book, but rather to select books of interest and see what is there – and then another and another. Visual art books are interesting but books about mechanical engineering, inventions, the places and cities of the world – are all creatively stimulating. Reading a few words of interest, thumbing through beautiful coffee table style books with glossy pictures, pursuing ideas throughout the stacks of books and author’s approaches is truly a feast for the creative mind and spirit.
Whether checking out the books from the library, buying them or simply looking, by opening many different books and seeing how the author and publisher approached the problems of communicating their ideas and solutions, it enhances thinking about the many possible approaches and avenues of thought. Opening avenues to explore, trails of ideas to awaken and examine more closely, makes books one of the best and fastest ways to create something new.
5. Watch News, TV and Cable TV Shows With An Attitude of Problem Solving –
One way to create new answers, new solutions, new products, new processes, new ideas and new creative inventions and innovations is to watch the news, tv and cable tv shows, science and history shows, international news online with a question in mind, “Is there anything here that needs solving, that needs to be done better, that I could help solve?” By asking this question and keeping this attitude while watching these information rich shows, ideas and answers will come. Write them down.
It doesn’t matter how practical it is to help or not help with any of the solutions or any of the problems noticed while watching the news, tv and cable tv shows. The creative process will be awakened by both the attitude of being available to be of help to things in a greater world and also by honoring those thoughts and ideas by the act of writing down the things noticed that need solutions and possible solutions that are generated. Reserve all judgment about the practicality of being a part to those solutions since that is a complete unknown factor and single out the things noticed and ideas that are generated instead.
Since our home and studios, business office and 32 years worth of reference materials, supplies, equipment, business marketing tools, books, completed work and research burned to nothing on August 18, eight weeks ago, it has been hard to wrap my head around what to do next. All the things needed when a move is intentional are required at the same time all the things necessary to do after a disaster have needed doing too.
This new blog is the beginning of a new day in our business and in my life as a career inventor, writer, academic and artist. It should be interesting and our team at Cricket House Studios and especially me, are hoping you will enjoy coming along for the ride with us on this exciting victory dance of the Phoenix rising from the ashen wasteland of that fire. My wrath against all that mess is enough to make this dance a great one if not magnificent in its daring and passion.
So, welcome to a new day at our businesses including (but never limited to) – Cricket House Studios, Cricket Diane Art and Design, The America the Beautiful Show, The Inventors’ League and Mad Scientists Group. We look forward to an epic tale of the extraordinary kind as we move forward and each day glints a measure of that which we hope to share with all of you as you join us in creating this victory – together.