We may think that having original ideas means starting from a blank slate. Or that people that have meaningful insights are somehow special. Artists used to say they were visited by a muse when inspiration struck.
Paul Graham on How to Get New Ideas:
The way to get new ideas is to notice anomalies: what seems strange, or missing, or broken? You can see anomalies in everyday life (much of standup comedy is based on this), but the best place to look for them is at the frontiers of knowledge.
Knowledge grows fractally. From a distance its edges look smooth, but when you learn enough to get close to one, you’ll notice it’s full of gaps. These gaps will seem obvious; it will seem inexplicable that no one has tried x or wondered about y. In the best case, exploring such gaps yields whole new fractal buds.
Meaningful insights and new ideas come from noticing things and connecting the dots. One more reason for taking notes of the things you notice.