Creative Something


Articles tagged “ideas”

How creating mental blocks from curiosity, and knocking them down, can spark creative ideas

Posted

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”

This quote from Pablo Picasso has always intrigued me.

What does it mean to work for inspiration? Is it enough to spend time browsing the web in search of some spark? Or does the work need to be of a more difficult kind?

I found a similar quote this afternoon, from the great Greek ruler Leonidas, that may give us some additional insights. He said:

“Action produces the appetite for more action.”

This, I believe, is a crucial key to getting creatively unstuck. It’s when we stop working that our ability to think creatively also stops. So the two – thinking creatively and taking action – are undoubtedly linked.

There are then two ways of looking at this: the first is to say that we must have a problem to solve or a project to move forward on in order to give ourselves the momentum to think creatively in the first place.

In other words: it’s difficult to drum up ideas if there isn’t a purpose to doing so.

The other way of looking at this advice is that, when we feel the least creative – the least to do creative work or have new ideas – the best thing to do is anything actionable.

We can think of our brains like domino machines, and when we get creatively stuck it’s because there isn’t a block in front of us to knock down.

The solution becomes easy to identify when we view creative thinking from these perspectives: put a metaphorical block down in front of you and follow it as it continues to knock others down.

I could throw in a dozen more quotes here about how this relates to creativity being about “just connecting things.”

To be creative, and to do creative work, we have to ensure there’s a constant setup of blocks in front of us (to knock down, or connect, or whatever verb works best for you).

Here’s an example of how to use this information in order to get ideas flowing:

Go to Google.com and start typing a question, something actionable. Type “How do I”, or “Learn how to”, or “How do you” or something like that.

The results will be surprising, most likely. Topics will appear like: how to tie a tie, or how to do a backflip, or how to do crafts, or how to make the best french toast. I have never tried to do a backflip, but I wonder what it takes to learn.

These topics are our starting block. It’s time to knock one down and see what comes after it. So follow one of the ideas, maybe it’s learning how to tie a new knot or how your favorite candy is made or how to do backflips.

As you learn about the topic you can start to relate it to others: the work you’re doing or another topic that popped-up when you did your original search (as we’ll get into again in a moment).

Allow yourself to be curious about the topic.

Ask questions and follow them online, in a notebook, or just in your mind: is it easier to do a backflip off of something? How does doing a backflip under water impact your ability to do it out of water? Who do you think first invented the backflip? How many people are hurt each year as a result of doing a backflip?

The more you dive into these topics and follow them, the more questions you should have. As you dive into the answers to those questions you’ll find yourself discovering and uncovering new topics to follow as well.

Congratulations: you’ve started the process of action. This, according to Picasso and Leonidas, is a crucial step toward thinking creatively.

All you have to do now is link the topics to your work: How is thinking creatively like doing a backflip? If you tried to flip an idea around like a backflip, what difficulties would you face?

If you’re stuck, take action: setup the blocks in front of you that can lead to new and curious ideas.

Read this next: Why we get stuck

Photo by David Pacey.



All my best ideas come from just okay ideas.

(Permalink)

Posted pm



Know a good idea when you see one

Posted

How do you ever really know if an idea is worthwhile or not?

Nobody can really tell for sure. I certainly couldn’t tell you.

It seems that the best thing to do is have a purpose or a goal on which to evaluate your ideas. The goal can be anything: to write the book outline, to doodle the plan, to tap out a rhythm, then do what it takes to accomplish that goal.

With a goal in place, any idea that meets or exceeds that marker can be identified as a good one.

This way there’s no confusion, no wondering. The idea is good – no matter what it looks like, how it works, or how far away it is from what you originally envisioned – because it accomplishes what you set out for it to do.

One of the best ways to determine whether an idea is a good one or not isn’t whether it fails. It’s whether you created what you set out to do, whether someone (somewhere) connects to the idea, and whether you keep being drawn to it in some way or another.

If you can address all of those things and the idea doesn’t seem sound, it’s time to consider that all of the other factors – the environment, the presentation, the timing – may be off, not the idea itself.



Give yourself a break: everyone gets stuck

Posted

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you’re not feeling as creative as you’d like. But frustration is just another hinderance in the creative process, one that we must find a way to overcome in order to get back to creating.

But here you are, stuck.

You’ve tried everything you heard would help. Maybe you went for a walk, tried brainstorming with a friend or coworker, or you spent the equivalent of a full work day browsing for inspiration online.

You should have had a good idea by now, you think to yourself.

I don’t want you think having creative ideas is easy. The insights don’t always fly in when you need them most. In-fact: they hardly ever will.

We see and hear about these geniuses of our time, they seem to consistently have one good idea after the other, but the reality is quite the opposite: everyone gets stuck, even creative geniuses.

The difference between them and you is that they keep trying, they don’t let the fact that no good ideas are coming right now (or tomorrow, or the next day) stop them from doing the work.

Of course, there are things you can try to calm your brain and (with some luck) get the ideas flowing. One thing you can do right now to try and break away from the frustration is to literally break away for a while. Go for a walk with a friend and talk about anything but the creative work you’re trying to do. Go take a nap. Go watch a new movie. You could also try using any of the 150 techniques in the creative app oflow.

What’s important isn’t to get the ideas going again right away. More important is allowing yourself to not feel overwhelmed by the fact that ideas aren’t coming. Accept that it’s normal! It doesn’t mean you’re any less creative or intelligent or useful.

The reason you’re stuck isn’t that you can’t have good ideas, or that you don’t have all you need to have them, it’s much more likely that you’re stressing yourself out and restricting your attention. That’s it.

If you feel like you should be having good ideas, but aren’t, don’t worry, it happens to all of us. Give yourself a break, give yourself some slack.

Read this next: Get out of your own way



Why wait for an idea to strike?

Buy this poster

(Permalink)

Posted pm



And what comes next?

Posted

I think that’s a reliable question for uncovering the value of ideas: “What comes next?”

If you’re unable to answer that question realistically (six times in a row for any single idea), you should rethink the idea.

You have an idea for a new business… and what comes next? Testing the market, naming the business, seeking funding?

You realize there’s a cafe down the street perfect for hanging your paintings… and what comes next? Who would be the right person to talk to about getting the work hung? Why your work? Why that spot?

You have an idea for a novel that you think is completely unique… and what comes next? How can you validate the uniqueness? Who would hear (or, in this case, read) what you have to say?

It’s not uncommon to have an idea, think it’s the best thing in the world, and then watch it slowly melt into the recesses of your mind, never to be thought again.

Instead of lettings ideas go to waste, it’s worth spending an extra five minutes, right now to ask yourself what comes next.

You’ve got the idea, what are you going to do with it now?

Related:

Do.

When an idea strikes, act

You have to take action if you want to succeed

Photo by Duncan Hull.