The process of turning an idea into a manageable product is not linear. It may start with a fixed idea, but that idea can change as you collect more information, do more reading, and write-up what you have. New information changes old ideas. And your story changes.
Inspiration comes from anywhere, and everywhere. Take the story of a guy from Lisbon who is traveling the world and making hand-drawn sketches of everything he sees (the full story is here).
“Luis Simoes has visited 29 countries in the past two years, traversing Europe and Asia and documenting every step. But not in the usual way — there’s no snapping of thousands of photos with his smartphone, or making friends back home jealous with interminable Facebook posts. Instead, Simoes, a 35-year-old former 3D motion designer from Lisbon, Portugal, is sketching his way around the world…”
Why? Because others travel, so why not him?
“After ten years in the same job he decided that he’d had enough; he wanted to be out there doing what he loved. And that thing, he discovered, was sketching. “I had a friend who was traveling around the world and I was jealous, but then I thought, if he’s doing this then I can also do this.”
How he started, and how he changed. He says:
“Up until now as I’ve been traveling around I do a lot of sightseeing but I try to capture the mood of a traveler when he’s sightseeing. So I’m not just drawing a beautiful building, I’m trying to capture the life around the building, and how people connect with that building. So I try, with my sketches, to bring these moments. I try to build a story behind every sketch.”
His style has changed, he reflects. He no longer draws tourist attractions like the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona or the Eiffel Tower. “Now I’m drawing a story… I don’t have to tell everything, but I give you the subject. I’ve learned how to go sketch faster but keep all the ingredients to keep the viewer interested. Of course the more you sketch the more you grow, so it’s an evolution.”
Your own research is an evolution, not a straight line from a fixed, beginning idea that is ultimately realized.
And it requires a leap into the unknown. Luis is on a five year sketching journey, and he says:
“I needed the ambition — I wanted something big, for myself. Five years is a long time but I want to search for the unknown.”
For more on the evolution of research, see this TED video, “Uri Alon: Why truly innovative science demands a leap into the unknown.”