Keith Sawyer has spent decades researching creativity. His latest post reports his interviews with winners of the New Yorker cartoon caption competition. Among his conclusions:
The first important discovery about creativity is that ideas emerge over time from hard work and constant revision. The “sudden flash of insight” is largely a myth. And the same goes for the cartoon caption contest: caption winners almost never have their ideas instantly.
And this resonated strongly:
The creative insight seldom comes to lone geniuses who sequester themselves from society; on the contrary, conversation and social ties enhance creativity. Contest winners tend to bounce ideas off of friends or family. Patricia Carrington had her idea while discussing the cartoon with her husband. Harry Effron while talking about the cartoon with his dad. John Kinde actually gets together every week with a “humor master-mind group” to brainstorm caption ideas.