How to Continuously Produce New Ideas (Part 1)
World Teacher's Message No.276


The Question:

Many young people look for immediate, tangible results. They often give up when they are unable to withstand their lack of understanding or become satisfied with their knowledge with an Internet search or the reading of a light book. Can you tell us the kind of mindset we should have so we can better endure time and persevere?

November 9th, 2016 Happy Science Special Lecture Hall
From Q & A of lecture, “On Intellectual Honesty”


“Enduring not knowing” is really an essential point. It’s the key to an intellectual life, and it’s something that all intellectuals need to overcome.

As our academic curiosities spread more and more, we realize how much we don’t know. Therefore, it is typical for people to end up with little curiosity. It’s like playing in a sandbox. People can say, “I have conquered the sandbox. I know everything there is to know about this sandbox,” but a sandbox is just a sandbox in a playground and nothing more. It doesn’t signify that all the other areas have been conquered.

People with strong intellectual desire and curiosity have a lot that they don’t know. When this is the case, it is common for them to lack confidence in a certain sense, despair their stupidity, and wonder why their ability to learn and understand are so basic.

On the other hand, they may lament their lack of effort and criticize their laziness that may have prevented them from declining an offer to drink on a Friday night when they had plans to read. They may think, “Now I won’t be able to wake up until Saturday noon. If I postpone my plan until then though, I wouldn’t be able to finish my leftover work.” With these kinds of thoughts, they end up accomplishing very little.

This kind of dilemma remains as a continuous problem. Even when you try your hardest to widen your knowledge, there is no end. I will say it bluntly: there is never an end.


Even a Thousand Books Is Not Enough

I often used to say that reading a thousand, good books will allow you to become an intellectual. People who read our (Happy Science) books will probably reach this number with ease, but I think that one thousand books is still a huge wall. There are many people who never reach this number in their lifetime.

This is a wall, and there is probably only one percent of people who read over one thousand books. It is a difficult task. I think 99 percent of the people will not reach this number. Only one percent will.

But reading one thousand books is not enough to become an intellectual. It wouldn’t reach the point of being able to produce good work. I say one percent, but when we assume that there are 100 million people in Japan, one percent of that is 1 million people. If there are 120 million people, it would be 1.2 million people. It’s difficult to say that 1.2 million people are currently doing the work of an intellectual. Many people don’t enter this academic lifestyle and end up only doing office-work jobs. It’s mainly only manual labor below this level.

Compared to manual labor, office work, and even technical work that require specialty knowledge, jobs that create intellectual materials, or jobs of people who rise from their office-work jobs and enter the business-owning aspects and large-scale decisions such as analysts, will definitely have higher pay in general. This is as expected, because there are not many people who can do these jobs.

Among the 1.2 million people that read over one thousand books, there are around 100,000 who aspire to become a writer, but those who can make a living off it is very low. There are probably around 100,000 who have written a novel, book, or manuscript, but it’s obviously difficult for these people to make a living off this.

In this age, even people who win the Akutagawa Award are asked by the publisher, for example, to keep their jobs as a convenience store employee. They are told that convenience store employees can earn around 2 million yen annually. To earn 2 million yen annually as an author isn’t possible long-term unless substantial amounts of work come in every year. This wouldn’t happen with short stories, so authors shouldn’t quit their jobs. It is a difficult time. Differentiating from others is extremely hard.


Seeds of Ideas Solely From Experience Will Run Out

However, when you write a book or manuscript, for example, ideas will gradually run low. It will inevitably run out. This makes the situation dangerous, especially after an author wins an award. Once a goodly number of books are sold and the author’s name spreads, they will need to write something different for their next work. When they are asked to write something of the same quality, they don’t have enough seeds hidden within to produce these works in many cases. This is because these people’s goals are to break through with their first work.

In the world of anime as well, Director Makoto Shinkai can currently be seen in various places doing interviews or showing up in TV and newspapers. A person who have made a performance income of 150 million yen from his previous work now has a performance income that just went over 16 billion yen (at the time of lecture), but the pressure for his next work is probably unimaginable. What would happen to the work after that? Worst-case scenario, it may even be possible for these people to go out of business since they have already earned so much.

Authors have all said that they fear the time after their first breakthrough. The second work is always scary. My aunt was a writer as well, and she would always work so hard to win an award. However, she knew that winning an award would mean writing a second work in the following year, so she would always be prepared for her next work, which would become the first after the breakthrough. She used to do these things. Authors fear running out of their seeds of ideas. For writers and people who create, running out of ideas is always scary.

This is true especially for author-type people. People who write based on their experience run out of ideas extremely quickly: topics often range from their work experience or illness, or the experience of their family member who has gone through a near-death experience. It can’t be denied that they are interesting to read. Novels are often based off an interesting experience, so there are instances when they write something eye-opening in the first work, become a best-seller and well-known, but not be able to write afterwards.

Even for Director Makoto Shinkai, who I just mentioned, the short films that he has made thus far give me the sense that he is similar to the author types. His recent feature films include creative materials that may still suggest his growing potentials, but if he was writing based on his experiences, his ideas will eventually run low.

From now on, the preparation that he does in between his works will be tested. The bottleneck from the very beginning is what these creators are doing in order to cultivate their seeds of ideas.

This would mean, for genre, putting in the effort to expand their specialty and putting in the effort to look through various materials to find hints that triggers ideas, and all the while having a solid foundation.

How to Continuously Produce New Ideas (Part 1)
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