Kate Bush, Stranger Things, & the wondrous power of Idea Emergence

Written by 
Nick Milo


Nick Milo

Nick Milo has spent the last 15 years harnessing the power of digital notes to achieve remarkable feats. He's used digital notes as a tool to calm his thoughts and gain a clearer understanding of the world around him.

A song released in 1985 took 37 years to reach #1 on the charts in 2022. We can understand how that is possible through the fundamental concept of Idea Emergence.

Artistic expression isn’t about whittling away ideas until you get to a lifeless end product. It’s about the emergence of ideas and inspirations—over time—filtered through the lens of your unique perspective. What I’m trying to express—both in this post and in countless other places—is that the creative process is an emergent one. This is not only closer to the heart of the matter, but it’s incredibly empowering.

It can show how Kate Bush’s song “Running Up That Hill” emerged into being. It can show how her song—long forgotten by most people—re-emerged. And it can show how Kate Bush’s song was merged 37 years later into something distinct from the sum of its parts in Stranger Things, Season 4.

What is Idea Emergence? Idea Emergence is the process of how the ideas you encounter go from the “nothingness” to the “somethingness”—and how those ideas grow in richness, complexity, and personally meaningful value over time. Idea Emergence is how things form from merging personal uniqueness with personal experiences.

That's why Kate Bush’s song + Stranger Things = a perfect microcosm to show the wondrous power and unpredictability of idea emergence.

Emerging up that hill

​Kate Bush’s song “Running Up That Hill” was originally released in 1985. It resonated with a lot of people. But it didn’t climb to No 1 on the charts. In the wide arc of 80s music, Kate Bush was not on most people’s list of favorite artists. In fact, even though I am a lover of random 80s music pop songs, she wasn’t even on my radar! (We all have blind spots.)

But let’s zoom out. Before Kate Bush could write and perform her song, she had to be inspired. She had to live in the world and experience it. Her song is what emerged from mixing her uniqueness with her experiences.

For the rest of us, her song became something we could “grasp”. An artifact. A packaged object of expression that others could experience and become inspired by. In this case, Idea Emergence was how a song emerged from the Nothingness into the Somethingness—through the artistic expression of Kate Bush.

So in 1985, it made a splash. But then other shiny songs arrived and “Running Up That Hill” got buried for most of us…only to be “rediscovered” 37 years later thanks to its placement in the TV show: Stranger Things, Season Four.

🎵Side note: The Duffer Brothers will get the credit as showrunners, but we have Nora Felder to thank. Nora is the Music Supervisor on Stranger Things. I worked with her on two separate TV shows and she’s a master at what she does—which includes creatively sourcing songs for the showrunners to approve. In this case, I’d bet money that Nora was the force behind “Running Up That Hill” being “rediscovered” 37 years later. Thank you, Nora!

Here’s the thing. Stranger Things isn’t a reduction! It wasn't made by someone progressively highlighting Kate Bush's lyrics and Steven Spielberg's scripts until all that was left was a hit TV show. That sounds silly doesn't it? That's why this bears reminding: the creative process isn’t some cheap and mechanical process. It is the wondrous emergence of people, ideas, and artifacts—all clustered together in to generate something distinct: a wildly popular TV show.

Why is this emergence?

 * Because it is distinct from the parts that make it up.
 * And the parts still stand on their own.

“Running Up That Hill” still stands as its own unique artifact. The Duffer Brothers still remain unique people. So does Nora Felder. And Netflix is still a company. But the combination of these elements—plus countless more, of course—birthed something new, distinct, and unique: Stranger Things, Season 4.

It carries its own story, context, and emotional impact. It has become its own artifact. It's own object of expression. That’s Idea Emergence…and it works whether we want it to or not. But it works a bit better for the rebels and misfits than it does for the regurgitators.


Start seeing idea emergence happening around you right now!

What are you working on right now? How are you encountering ideas and inspirations? How are you merging them with your unique perspective?

If you need a prompt, try this:

What is sparking with me?

Take a moment to think about a different time in your life. Maybe you have a note about it. Maybe you just have a feeling.

It’s okay if it got buried for years. Because just like “Running Up That Hill”, you can always “rediscover” your THING and merge it with your uniqueness to make an impact in your world.

Remember: Without the Odyssey, there is no Ulysses.

That’s the wondrous power and unpredictability of Idea Emergence.


To see this idea through a different medium, check out this youtube video, which is the same in spirit, but different in flavor.

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