How to be Assaulted Regularly with a Flow of Excellent Ideas

How to be Assaulted Regularly with a Flow of Excellent Ideas

Written by Emilie

Topics: Productivity

Everyone knows about the spark- that moment when you’re hit with the genius idea you’ve been searching for. It famously comes to us in the shower or when we’re nodding off to sleep. We can’t know if and when it will arrive, but as soon as it shows up, we know. Our hearts race. We grab our laptop, napkin or moleskin notebook and jot it down before it’s lost.

We can’t force these moments or predict when they will arrive. They seem to come out of nowhere, when we least expect them.

So what should we do? Should we just wait for the next spark of creative inspiration to hit before we embark on a new project? There must be a better way…

Work Deliberately and the Ideas will Come

The more deliberate you are about working, the more regularly genius ideas will come to you. Even if you feel completely uninspired, forcing pen to paper day in and day out and jotting down every idea you come up with throughout the day will result in the occasional moment of genius.

Those moments are the reason you put in the work. The more you work intentionally and keep track of your ideas, the more chance there is that the divine spark will hit.

In My Life

Last year, I took a music policy class and we were divided into teams for our final project. The assignment was to write a business plan for a business or non-profit related to non-traditional methods of music distribution. It was pretty broad and I wasn’t really sure where to start.

So I brainstormed. I set aside twenty minutes in the morning for a few days and just jotted down any ideas I could think of. None were particularly original. But I just kept at it.

And then on about the fourth day of doing this, I woke up with my idea.

The idea was an online art collective meets event production company. Artists from different disciplines would be paired up together and collaborate on a project. The project would have its own profile on a central website, along with various media such as videos of the artists working together, photos of the work in progress, etc. Once the collaboration was complete, we would organize a live event or exhibit in which the artists would perform the work live. The website would be entirely free and would act to promote the event, which would have a cover charge.

That was it. It came to me all at once. I don’t even feel like I can take credit for it. I believe it came from somewhere else- a higher place. All I did was put in the grunt work.

My team liked it and we ran with it, adding a few components like a bi-monthly podcast and a line of eco-friendly totebags. We decided to submit the idea to a local entrepreneurial competition and made it to the semi-finals, which was pretty awesome!

This idea is something I would like to pursue for real. At the time, my plans to go to Denmark got in the way. It is still on my radar though. One day, when the time is right.

(Note: Until then, if anyone else would like to take the idea and go with it, that’s totally cool. Despite my background in intellectual property (or perhaps because of it), I believe that good ideas should be shared. If someone wants to take action and implement it, more power to them. There’s room for all of us in this world.)

Honestly, the most significant part of this story is that it awoken me to the world of entrepreneurship. Coming up with an idea, writing a business plan, pitching it to judges. All of these things sent me down a path which I am eternally grateful for.

Anyway, getting back to my point. Here are…

3 tips to help you have those moments of genius inspiration more frequently and faster:

1. Carry Around a Notebook

I used to hear this advice over and over and would think: “yeah yeah… I’ll find paper if I need it.” But once I started actually doing it, I found that not only did I have a lot of ideas, but they started coming to me more and more frequently as I was capturing them on paper.

I suggest buying a nice notebook and pen. Something that looks pretty and feels good to hold. I’m a fan of moleskins, but that’s really a personal choice. Spend a bit of money on it if you can. I think it’s important to cherish and respect your idea book and you will, if you’ve invested something in it.

Also, this might seem silly, but actually carrying around a notebook everywhere made me start thinking of myself as a professional. It made me take my work more seriously.

2. Schedule in Time and Push Yourself to Fill that Time

If there’s an idea you need to generate for a project you want to start, schedule in some time (preferably during your magic time) and work actively. Brainstorm, write, create. Do whatever you can, even if you feel that it’s complete garbage. The more you push yourself, the greater chance there is that you will be hit with the spark when you’re not working.

3. Bounce Around Ideas with Friends

I often generate my greatest ideas when I’m brainstorming with a buddy. It can be someone who’s not involved in the project. In fact sometimes that’s better because they might think of things you hadn’t thought of, being so close to the work.

Doing these three things regularly has changed my life. I don’t always get “genius ideas” per say, but I’ve found that I now get a lot of good-to-excellent ideas consistently just by being deliberate with my work. Sometimes it’s actually a little annoying. Ideas will come to me, one after the next, as I’m trying to fall asleep.

The other cool thing that happens is that you start generating ideas for projects much faster. When you’re in a situation in which you have to come up with something good within a particular deadline, this is a very handy skill to have.

Over the last year, my idea generation output has increased 1000% and it’s completely because of the methods listed above. Not all my ideas are genius, but the genius ones now come more often and much faster. No more waiting around for that spark.

It’s about putting in the work. To sum it up:

You must be deliberate in order to be spontaneous.

I was browsing through Ted earlier and came across this super inspiring video on the nature of creativity:

Elizabeth Gilbert on Nurturing Creativity

Olay.

***

Do you have any tricks that have helped you generate excellent ideas faster and more often? Share your thoughts.

12 Comments

  1. Rob says:

    As a photographer, one of the best sources of inspiration comes from looking at other artistic works. I would pour over countless images from some of the masters of the craft, as well as explore the Internet looking at people’s blogs. As I would see more imagery, new ideas would shape inside my head and I’d write them down.

    Another interesting way for me to brainstorm was to go for walks. This was especially true for my sound design work. Nothing beat just walking through the city and just picking up on the small, almost unnoticeable sounds.

  2. Emilie says:

    Great tip, Rob. It can also be fun to look outside your medium for inspiration. Sometimes the most random things can inspire creativity.

  3. james says:

    love the article Emilie! I’ve definitely found this true. Saw an article a few months ago that your new article really made me think of. It’s kind of about ‘flow’ and that state of creativity. Can’t believe I managed to find the article, but here it is:
    http://37days.typepad.com/37days/2006/10/polish_your_mud.html

    the part about the ceramics class especially I found pretty inspiring. A teacher divided his class in two, one half was graded on quantity (50 pounds made in the semester was ‘A’ work, 40 pounds was ‘B’) the other half just on quality. They could make as much or as little as they liked, but their one best piece would determine their entire grade. Guess which half all the best work was produced in? Sounds like you’re dead on with the whole ‘schedule time to create even if what you come up with isn’t quite right the first few days’.

    in my other life I was a programmer/math/physics geek, and oddly enough what you talked about is exactly how to approach even ‘logical’ projects. I used to experiment with meditation and even lucid dreaming as a way to brainstorm, and while it’s definitely one great source of good ideas, I don’t think anything beats just putting in your time reglarly. You really do have to get into the rhythm of creation before some of the best ideas will hit.

  4. Emilie says:

    Wow, great article James. Thanks for sharing. I love the part about the study! I’m going to use that when I write about the paralyzing effects of perfectionism.

    It’s also funny that you mentioned lucid dreaming. That’s something I’ve been reading about a lot lately. When I was on my detox, I found that my dreams became very vivid and I had a degree of consciousness in them, so I started trying to experiment with that. Interesting stuff. Thanks for the feedback.

  5. this web page doesn’t look right on Chrome, on the other hand your other pages do. bizarre…

  6. jesse says:

    I am pretty new to the blogosphere. And I don’t judge, I like to give everything a fair hearing. That to me in fun. I am having a fun ride with you @puttylike.

    On creativity: I get it whenever I put pen on paper or start typing on my computer. I get it to my listening to great people (like in tedtalks), reading great blog posts. what helps me again is, asking the right questions about a project am working on. The numbers of answers i can generate will determine how I can get to the ahaa! idea.

    I see myself as a farmer as against a Hunter. I will lay the seed in the soil after tilling the soil and be patient enough doing what am suppose to do to tender the seed until harvest time. Then I can reap bountifully. I could make use of some mentorship!

    • Emilie says:

      Hey Jesse, I’m relatively new to the blogosphere as well. But really excited that you found me. I like your site too! And I’m looking forward to reading more.

      Isn’t it great how once you make a habit out of putting in the effort, the ideas just start flowing? Actually to be honest, it’s a little annoying sometimes. Ideas pop into my head when I’m trying to fall asleep or focus in class. It’s like “jeez, another one?!” heh… I suppose there are worse problems one could have though. :)

      • jesse says:

        Sometimes, its embarrassing, yes Emilie. Even when am trying to focus during worship ideas rush into my head. What helps is that I write them down. I don’t get to work with all the ideas at once. I keep some for a latter time. remember KISS~ keep it simple stupid, simplicity works.

  7. Perfect timing for me and should pull me out of a creative slump. This helps me let go of a negative editor and move on with my project.

  8. Raiscara Avalon says:

    You are 100% spot on Em! I’ve been reading through your archives (I’m weird like that) and just had to clue you in on my new favorite tip…morning pages. I actually picked it up from Julia Cameron’s Vein of Gold book, and *fangirl squeal* the amount of ideas flowing in! I’m already kind of a squirrel with ADHD on a caffeine rush…with an F5 tornado in my head…but this was like getting dumped with a Cat 5 hurricane. It also really helps to set the tone of your day, I think of it like morning brain dumps. :)

    Oh, and I definitely second the notebook! I carry one everywhere…it’s not just for ideas, its my second brain! Literally my entire life is in this notebook. Just wanted to comment, now that I’ve left you a novel. :)

Leave a Comment