The Idea Journey

What does it take to discover new ideas?

As a copywriter for the last twenty years, I'm constantly on the lookout for ways to stay creative. Writing constantly, I usually hit some dry spells, which make me crazy and unproductive. One thing I've learned about ideas is that you usually have to give them time to show up. We burn brain cells and spend countless hours trying to catch them. As most of us know, ideas do their best to be born only when they're good and ready...and when we're best able to perceive them.

To be creative, you must go on a journey to a place that seems strange and unpredictable. When you do, the ideas germinate and you can reach your destination.

Play "Opposite" Music While You Work

I was working on a brochure for a high tech firm, trying to turn technical jargon into understandable English. I was stumped. For days I typed what seemed to be stupid sentences on the computer screen, over and over again, trying too hard to get it right. I don't know what possessed me but I put on a Louis Armstrong CD, totally opposite from any contemporary music playing on the radio at that time. As it played in the background, my subconscious mind must have focused on the rythmns. It enabled me to start goofing around, typing technical words to the beat. All of a sudden I typed the headline that proved to be the focal point of the whole brochure. This music helped clear away the blues of unaccomplishment. I then wrote the brochure in 4 hours. Thanks, Louie!

Think Opposite of What You're Trying to Create

Another project: creating a direct mail concept and campaign that would grab the attention of a rather serious group of folks. The client was getting ready to release a CD-ROM product dealing with patent information directed to corporate librarians. "We've racked our brains trying to get the attention of these folks," the client told me. "Please come up with something creative." Again, I had no idea and pondered for days about it.

Again, music came to the rescue. While flipping the dial on the FM radio, I heard about 3 seconds of rumba music. Ah-ha! Do the ROM-BA. The direct mail campaign featured an illustration of CD-ROMs in a conga line, dancing around a computer. The client even took the concept further at their trade shows, playing romba music that attracted attention of show visitors and reminded those who received the brochure about the product.

Just Write Anything

We all have an "inner critic", the voice that tells us what we're creating isn't good enough. Shut the naysayer off by simply typing or writing anything that comes to mind. This "stream-of-consciousness" exercise can help jump-start your creativity. Remember that no one has to see what you're writing. After you've reached your idea, you can simply delete your "crazy writing" file or throw the paper away.

Walk...Run...or Drive Away

If the creativity isn't flowing, sometimes you just have to get away from your project all together. Go for a walk. Exercise. Go to sleep. What seems to work for me is to get in my car and drive for a while. Many ideas have been born while I've been avoiding crazy drivers on the Beltway! If you concentrate on something else, your ideas will come through.

Read or Listen to Other Words

If you're stumped, read or listen to other sources. Flip through magazines. Read some fiction. Watch t.v. for a little while. The purpose is to clear your mind of your project and fill it with other words and sounds. This can give your ideas have a chance to form.

The Idea Journey Takes Time

Most importantly, you must have patience. You can come up with a solution to any idea just have to allow yourself the time. Like any journey, it always takes a while to get from start to finish. Good luck on your creative travels.