One of the things that used to hinder me in my adult life from being more creative was the reality of having a busy life and thinking I didn’t have enough time to do the things I was passionate about. For too long I allowed this false sense of busyness to control the creative part of my life.
This is not to say I wasn’t actually busy – in fact, I was working two jobs when I launched Verve House Collective! Not to mention my commitment to my health by working out regularly and meal-prepping each week, maintaining my relationships with friends and family, and carving out time for self-care and creativity.
My point is: being busy doesn’t mean you can’t be creative.
Being busy doesn’t mean you can’t be creative! Click To Tweet
In fact, I found that with the time restraints that I had, I often felt more creative. There’s something about not having a lot of time to do something – you either crack under the pressure or you find the focus you need to just get it done.
In my case, I saw time as a precious commodity and the lack of it served as a positive motivator to still get things done.
One of the most valuable lessons I learned was how to generate ideas while on the go. Using Evernote, one of my favorite idea-capturing apps, I created a note where I kept a running list of ideas. Everything from blog topics to future course ideas to The Pulse topics went there.
To this day, that note is titled “Brilliant Content Ideas” because I needed (and still need!) a safe place to capture every single idea that came to mind without any of the pesky judgement that I would inevitably inflict on myself.
So, without any further ado, here are 7 ways to become an idea-generating machine:
Read as much as you can
Reading has been fundamental to my creativity for as long as I can remember. Of course, I didn’t start out reading for the Sake of My Creativity – I read because I’m into it and it’s one of my favorite pastimes. A great side effect to reading, though, is the way it opens up your mind to other viewpoints. I also find that reading helps me see my creativity in a whole different way.
What do you read?
The short answer? Anything and everything. A wide range and variety of reading keeps your mind interested and opens it to different styles.
Take notes from the greats
We are fortunate in that we as modern-day creatives have a collective creative ancestry. So many creatives have gone before us and we have the unparalleled opportunities to walk in their footsteps – and also to create our own pathway.
The good thing about having people who have gone before us that we have an example of what we can do, what they did right, and what they did wrong. We also have the unique opportunity to see the possibilities and see what we can also do.
When I look at the things that people in my creative past have done, it not only gives me a sense of gratefulness that someone has paved the way, but I’m also filled with hope and excitement at the things that I can do right now.
Record every idea
As I’m creating or entering into a brainstorming session, one of the two rules I abide by religiously is to write quickly. The second, and perhaps most important, is to record every idea. The thought of recording every single idea you have could be scary to you. I mean, it’s no secret that not every idea that comes through your brain might not be a winner. In fact, most of them won’t be.
There’s a beauty in designating a time to just brainstorm and capture ideas. It’s not a time for judgement and critique of those ideas – on the other hand, it’s a time for you to just be the agent the ideas go through and capture them before they decide to go on to someone else.
Brainstorm often (get in the habit of brainstorming on the go)
I’m often on the go and getting ideas is just one of the things that happens. So I have to be prepared! One of my favorite ways to capture ideas is by using the Evernote app to jot them down. Any changes to notes I’ve made or created are automatically updated and stored so that later, I can then pull up on any device that has the app. It’s seamless and easy so that when I need to capture something quickly, I’m able to.
Another way to brainstorm often is to schedule this time so that it’s a real event in your calendar. When we schedule things, they become real and they are more likely to happen.
Set an hour on your calendar this week to sit down and focus on a specific project you’re working on. In 15-minute increments, write down every idea that you have for this idea. Don’t edit yourself, censor your words, or be judgemental about what you come up with.
This time is for brainstorming only.
You will have the time later to cut out the ideas that don’t work for you or your project and you will have the opportunity later to narrow down those ideas. But during your brainstorm session, your only concern is to capture those ideas in whatever form they come in!
(check out this wonderful commercial from GE that may or may not makes me cry every time I watch it because it’s so powerful)
Don’t edit yourself when brainstorming
We touched on this in the previous point, but really I can’t stress it enough. Editing ourselves while brainstorming is a common and natural hangup when we are trying to put forth work that matters to us. Brainstorming is messy and disjointed and all over the place. It doesn’t make sense and it is far from the perfect creation that our “thing” will be by the time we’re done with it.
But that’s the thing, during this initial brainstorming session, the goal is to just get the ideas on paper (electronic or traditional) before they leave you.
There’s an interesting idea that was introduced to me by Elizabeth Gilbert via her book, Big Magic. She talks about how she believes in ideas called “geniuses” that visit their perspective hosts in hopes of being brought to fruition. If the host doesn’t capture that idea soon enough or in a manner that that idea deems acceptable, that idea is very likely to move on to somewhere else.
Under Gilbert’s belief, sometimes even capturing the idea doesn’t guarantee that it’s for you to bring to life. For instance, if you capture an idea and put it to the side for awhile, it’s very possible that that idea might not interest you in the same way when you return to it. It might have lost its magic with you. It might not have the same fiery spark that it might have had when it first collided with you.
I say all that to say it’s up to you, the creative, to be the vessel to let ideas in all of their dirty, unpolished, rough forms to come to you and barter a partnership – without any judgement at the first meeting. You never know, you could be saying yes to the opportunity of a lifetime.
Bounce ideas off your network
I had to learn the hard way that creating in a bubble is not only detrimental to creating solidly and consistently, but can also be extremely lonely. There’s such great opportunity to join in on a community of like-minded creatives – or even build you own!
One great thing about being a part of a community is the instant access you have to bounce ideas off of them or run things past them that you might need help working out. You might not be sure if a certain move is the right move and running it past someone that has a little insight on what you’re doing could be a game-changer for you.
Having a network is also great because you’re able to be there for people in the same way that they’re there for you – which is a reward in and of itself.
Ask questions. Then ask even more questions. Start with “What if?”
One of the best pieces of writing advice I’ve ever received was to ask the question “What if…?” to help create or advance plot. The “what if?” question might not fit with every line of industry that creativity is used in, but there’s no denying it is a great gateway to asking some important questions – and getting the ideas churning in your brain.
I encourage you to not focus on any time-constraints you might have. Your constraints are unique to you, but having them at all is not a new concept – and fortunately, plenty of creatives in our time and in the past have pushed past their limits to create iconic pieces that have paved the way for you and me to create the things on our hearts and provide the world with treasures that will last well past our lifetimes.
Did these tips offer some insight on generating ideas you might not have thought of before? Did any of them stand out to you more than the others?
I’d love to hear about it in the comments section below.