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Where do ideas come from?



Ideas come from out of nowhere. Maybe even from a little boy’s bum. There is no formula. This area has been researched, postulated, blogged to death, but still no-one has the foggiest. Perhaps previous knowledge and experiences combine to make things happen. Who knows? But somewhere, somehow, deep in our brains those interconnected neural networks cough up ideas.


As Steve Jobs once said, “Creativity is just connecting things.” Yeah, well, what did he know. Shut up Steve.


A lot of the time we make a conscious effort to think of ideas: brainstorms, think tanks, awaydays, sitting at your desk staring out of the window trying to think of something, anything. And a lot of the time these situations don’t succeed. But sometimes it’s when you’re wandering lonely as a cloud that an idea pops up and the connection is made.


Like this card of mine, for example. It all started a long, long time ago, in a land far, far away: Hertfordshire.

Good old 1970s fashion. Sort of.


In the mid-late 1970s when I was a teenager prancing about in Levi denim flares and Dunlop Green Flash trainers, I had a friend called Dave who had a habit of plumping for the oddest things to boost his image. Sports cars was the latest. Despite being only nineteen years old he must have had some sort of mid-life crisis and bought himself a very cheap, very rusty, very noisy Triumph GT6.


I’m not sure who he was trying to impress but the car wasn’t built for it. I don’t think it was built for anything, least of all impressing. It was a classic old British car put together by uninterested workers with an eye on the pub. It was seemingly held together by small patches of indifferent craftsmanship, endless seams of rust and huge amounts of optimism.


Along with this clattering lump of rusty Britishness, Dave decided to invest his hard-earned pocket money in an Afghan coat, thus completing the look of someone who had absolutely no idea how to impress.


I’m not sure what possessed him to do such dreadful act against good taste, but he must have seen some celebrity like Burt Reynolds in a magazine looking cool in an Afghan coat and thought, “Yeah! That’s me!”


Except it wasn’t. Dave clearly didn’t know himself. He was a lovely chap, but not cool enough to carry it off. I’m not sure what look he was trying to achieve, but a rusty old banger driven by a fly-attracting Afghan coat wasn’t going to pull those giggling teenage girls with bell-bottomed jeans and cheesecloths tops.


For some inexplicable reason, and one that even Dave probably couldn’t explain to himself, he plumped for the worst looking bedraggled coat on the rack, or maybe on the planet.


This is not Dave. Could have been, should have been.

The coat looked as if a sheep had been run over and an annoyed driver had reversed over it a few times to finish it off. Not only was this dead sheep looking the worse for wear even before it was worn, but it was also a little too big for Dave. His fingers wafted out of the ends of the stringy-edged sleeves like tentacles of a sea anemone sifting for food.


A triumphant entrance

Soon after this startling vision of my friend wearing a dead sheep, he invited to take me to Bournemouth college to meet some of his fellow art student chums.


We jangled merrily down the M3 in his Triumph GT6, with Dave in his over-sized Afghan coat and his sea anemone tentacles grasping the wheel. The car rattled and creaked, perhaps loosening the few vital bolts that kept the car together. Added to the danger of the steering wheel possibly coming loose at 65mph was prospect of going up in flames. There was this unsettling scent of four-star petrol wafting throughout the car, though thankfully, neither of us smoked, otherwise we might have got to Bournemouth in an ambulance.


We arrived at the college intact and thirsty, so headed for the student hostelry. Dave, despite wearing a dead sheep and wreaking of four-star petrol, strode confidently into the room and walked up to someone he knew propping up the bar.


“Hi!” said Dave enthusiastically, hoping for a friendly response. This guy looked up from his pint.


“Oh! Hi, Dave,” replied the guy. He was bleary-eyed and looked as if he’d been at the bar all day and hadn’t consumed as much as a Hula Hoop to absorb his beer. He took a swig from his glass, puffed on his cigarette, and slowly scanned Dave up and down. His eyes lit up in surprise.


“I once had a coat like,” he said. “It didn’t suit me either.”


He tucked his nose back into his pint and snorted a suppressed laugh. With his face jammed into his pint glass, his eyes winced with the sudden realisation of what he’d just said, and his body began to judder like a little boy sitting on a rickety conveyor belt. He clamped the edge of the glass with his teeth to contain himself. His eyes watered and his shoulders shook even more vigorously. He snorted and chuckled more and more. I wet myself. The dead sheep was unimpressed.


I think this guy’s brilliant off-the-cuff quip must have surprised even himself. I suspect he’s still chuckling to this day.


This great one-liner - well, two-liner - was indelibly etched into my brain and I always wanted to use it. Being in the card trade I always carry a notebook and pencil to capture those fleeting thoughts and ideas, no matter how small, how daft. But sometimes those ideas are there, right in front of you, and all you have to do is take them. Nothing else.


If only finding such ideas was this easy. If only this card business was so easy.



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