What is “ideaphoriana” anyway?

idea journal pic 020115
When the ideas keep coming, you have to figure out what to do with them somehow…

In case you were wondering about the origin of this blog’s title, here’s an explanation.

Ideaphoriana” is a term I created to describe a curated collection of ideas that I’ve generated, and someone who does this can be called an ideaphorian.  Both words derive from the concept of ideaphoria, which I first encountered over 20 years ago at the Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation (JOCRF) as part of a career aptitude/retooling process. (Longer story there, but one for a future post.) Their definition of ideaphoria is a simple one: the ability to produce ideas quickly. It can be thought of more broadly as the “capacity for creative thought or imagination“, but I think another definition more accurately captures the feeling: as “an experience where one feels a constant onslaught of new ideas, creating a euphoric state of idea creation.”

Learning about ideaphoria was an ‘aha’ moment — a recognition that yes, this is me — so the term instantly resonated with me and has been a part of my personal identity ever since. Even though the term was coined at least 70 years ago (Johnson O’Connor wrote a book about it back in 1945), it still feels new and forward-looking to me.

That’s partly because ideaphoria is like having your own personal fountain of youth — a never-ending stream of ideas that seems to gush forth eternally.  This is both a blessing and a curse, of course; having a “constant onslaught of new ideas” does indeed often create a “euphoric state” of creation, but it also makes it damn hard to sleep at times — like this morning for instance when I’ve been up since 4am because those ideas just wouldn’t shut up.

If you have this happy affliction, how to manage it?  Some of us carry around idea journals like the one in the picture above, and we fill them with notes and diagrams and other scribbles. The one I’m currently using is a book published by colleague and creativity maven Kathy Kegley, and it’s been well used, as its dog ears attest. I’d be curious to hear how others handle the process — although at the moment I’m too occupied with other ideas to focus on it.

The whole notion that the ideas in one’s mind are out of control is a bit curious really — it is happening in my mind, after all, so aren’t I the one in charge here?  In practice, I’d say yes and no — sometimes the onslaught of ideas is so torrential that it takes a lot of effort to shut them off (or at least out). This morning, for instance, I found myself thinking that the ideas were like noisy neighbors in an apartment building: you can go over and tell them to tone it down, but that doesn’t mean they actually will.  Some mornings I eventually make it back to sleep (although this morning wasn’t one of them).

I also wonder if having ideaphoria is like having tinnitus (which in turn makes me wonder if there’s a connection between the two? more ideas again): there are certainly many moments where I don’t hear my tinnitus, I lose awareness of it, and I start to wonder if it’s gone; but when it gets quiet, it’s always there — which is true of both the noise of tinnitus and the flow of ideas.

So this blog is another way to manage the flow — cultivate, curate, grow some of them to fruition. No doubt one reason this morning’s ideaphoria woke me up was because I’d just created this blog, and it was as if the ideas started lining up early, waiting for the store or ticket office to open. But the gardening metaphor is more apt: there are more ideas than can possibly be developed, and many others that never see the light of day or germinate. Yet like the impulse of life itself to create more life, the ideas keep coming. Yesterday I had no ideas in mind for blog topics, so I was surprised at first how many ideas developed while I was half asleep in the predawn darkness. But not really surprised: because that’s how ideaphoria works…

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2 thoughts on “What is “ideaphoriana” anyway?

  1. Sounds fascinating! Happy that you started the blog. One of my favorite writers online, James Altucher, talks a lot about developing the idea muscle, and how important is it to keep on coming up with ideas all the time and how it helps us as individuals (and entrepreneurs). His blog is http://www.jamesaltucher.com/, if you are curious. I’ve followed your blog and will be reading! Cheers!

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