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
The Idea Journey Takes Time
Most importantly, you must have patience. You can come up with
a solution to any idea problem...you 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.