A thought popped up, I was struck with inspiration, I stumbled upon an idea—all of these are common ways we describe creativity. Knowledge comes consciously, it seems, but new ideas come out of nowhere. Creativity is practically magic.
It’s important to let our creative brains do the trick rather than labor for days on end on the same things.
You have to give your subconscious time to process. Rollo May says that insights break into the mind against what you’re trying to think rationally. That is to say, while your conscious mind is doing all sorts of calculations and putting things in order, your subconscious is the part that allows for chaos, which is not what your conscious mind is aiming for. If you never let the chaos happen, new ideas will never collide and form into new ones.
I’ve always been a bit afraid that this is the nature of the creative act.
You mean to say I can’t fully control how and when great ideas appear? Sort of. While they do seem to come out of nowhere, it’s usually a delayed result of previous inputs. This is why it’s so important to read and listen and see as much as you can—you give your unconscious and conscious brain more to work with when it needs it. Past that, though, you have to trust that the rest will figure itself out and show up on time.