Monday, December 10, 2012

Scratching and Selling Software

Twyla Tharp defines "scratching" as the seemingly random searches for fodder that we all engage in when working on a new project. She depends upon scratching when she's drawing upon her 35-year career as a dancer, choreographer, and businessperson to look for creative inspiration for a new dance for her company. And every software developer has to scratch for creative ideas when looking for inspiration to create a new software application.
 
Tharp describes the scratching process in depth in her 2003 book "The Creative Habit - Learn it and use it for life." She believes that creativity comes from preparation and hard work. All of us can learn the skills needed to become more creative.
 
Scratching can look a lot like copying, Tharp tells us, as we read books and look at other people's work for inspiration. Developers often look at existing applications as the basis for discovering new programs to write. As in all fields, Tharp tells us, we're surrounded by ideas. Some are good and some are much less so.
 
It's often difficult to tell a good idea from a bad one, Tharp warns. And in fact, some people are very good at turning bad ideas into good ideas. Tharp believes that you can't have a good idea until you combine at least two ideas to form something new.
 
Interestingly, Tharp believes that it's not possible to scratch for big ideas. You start the creative process by finding little ideas and by helping them grow. Scratching is rather like improvising. Tharp believes that improvising is a great way to scratch for ideas, and build them into something big.
 
Tharp suggests a few ways that we can all scratch for new ideas -
  • The most common source of ideas is reading.
  • Everyday chatting with friends and colleagues, in person or in online forums, is a powerful source of scratching.
  • Tap the ideas of your mentors, and use them as a source for your ideas. The danger, of course, is that you could find yourself copying your mentors' ideas. It takes discipline to keep your ideas fresh and original.
  • Find ideas in nature. Ideas are all around us.
Tharp offers some practical rules for scratching -
  • Get in shape and stay in shape. To scratch for creative ideas, you have to think creatively on a regular basis. Stay in creative shape, and you'll be able to come up with new ideas more readily.
  • Look for ideas in the best places possible. Listen to great music. Enjoy great art. Read the best books. Don't waste your time with second-tier raw material. Become inspired by the best ideas.
  • Scratch in new places. Don't waste time looking for ideas in the same tired, old places. Looking in the archives of the huge download sites isn't going to help you find the next innovative software application.
  • Scratch with a passion. Stay emotional about your work. Don't believe that the search for creative ideas is a dull and boring left-brain search.
The hardest part of being creative is knowing how and where to get started, Tharp believes. One solution that she suggests is to get out and walk around. If you're not developing fresh ideas, then visit new places, and let this new environment inspire you. Practice searching for creative ideas. Over time, you learn to find good ideas everywhere.

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