What’s The Big Idea?

Idea Generation: How Do You Get Yours?

I’ve previously written on finding your creativity during a writer’s block – Five Tips to Help Find Your Creative Writing Mojo Again – or in fact, any block in creating, not just for writers. But let’s just assume you’re already feeling as creative AF and now you need to start work. What next? Where to begin? How do you create ideas to take your work or project forwards?

Powerful Quotes on Ideas

Artist and sculptor, Anish Kapoor:

All ideas grow out of other ideas.

American artist, Barbara Januszkiewicz:

Creative thinking inspires ideas. Ideas inspire change.

Writer and artist, Anais Nin:

My ideas usually come not at my desk writing but in the midst of living.

Acclaimed playwright and literary master, Oscar Wilde:

An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.

What is an Idea?

Let’s have a quick look first at what an idea actually is.

I like this definition by Dr Gerard J. Puccio, a professor at the International Center for Studies in Creativity at Buffalo State College, New York. He talks about ideas as a response to a gap of some sort:

“An idea is our imagination’s way of responding to a gap. A gap might be created by a question that doesn’t have an answer or a problem that doesn’t have a solution. We bridge the gap by forming a new association or connection.”

An idea is a spark, a notion, a thought…something that you can take forward to a planning stage and then on to devising a strategy if you want to pursue your idea.

Juan Marin

How Do You Get Ideas?

There’s plenty of articles and blogs on the ‘net about how to get ideas when you’re stuck – lots of methods that suit different people, depending on how your brain works best. I am very visual and like to ‘see’ things written down in front of me to help formulate my thoughts.

Below are three idea generation methods that I use regularly, sometimes in conjunction with each other, and they all work incredibly well.

But first, I start all of my ideas, projects and strategies with a whiteboard. It’s A3-sized and I have hung it onto my office door so I can write standing up. If I can’t get to a whiteboard, I’ve previously used brown Kraft paper pinned to the wall and drawn on that instead.

 

I also like my whiteboard because I can remove it from my office door and take it for a wander. If the weather is nice, I head outdoors and sit in the garden for some ‘good thinks’.

1. Brainstorm

I usually start with chucking out words and free association onto my trusty whiteboard. From there, I find things usually connect together nicely. Questions about the topic also tend to pop up during this process, which helps me to move on to more concrete ideas and the planning stage. I use brainstorming as a first step in my ideas process and then integrate it with another method to help me move on to planning and strategy.

2. Mind Mapping

First made a popular concept by the late educational consultant and writer, Tony Buzan, Mind Mapping is an excellent visual method of idea generation, learning and improving memory through doodles. He first noticed the technique during his studying years, when he noticed that his neat and ordered long paragraphs of study notes were taking an age to produce, compared to other students who were achieving higher grades but with somewhat messier notes – lots of colour and doodles littered their study materials. Looking back in history, he discovered that notable figures of creativity and academia used drawings and doodles accompanied by words to probe theories, further research and breakdown concepts into easier-to-remember formats.

Mind Mapping is an excellent method if you’re a visual person and you like to doodle thoughts on paper.

This short video by Tony Buzan on YouTube nicely explains the concept of Mind Mapping.

 

3. Exercise

This is one of the most effective idea generation methods for me. It frees up my head and helps me to focus, letting my creativity loose. Steve Jobs was a notable figure who used to walk to brainstorm and formulate strategies. He also used to have meetings with colleagues while he walked.

There is actually a scientific basis with exercise and creativity. The release within the body of endorphin hormones during work-outs are known to improve mood and produce the neurobiological ‘runner’s high‘ phenomenon. A study by Steinberg recorded a 25% improvement in mood following physical exercise, but the results also demonstrated that exercise had a marked improvement on creativity levels.

Whenever I’m out road-running, I regularly have lightbulb moments for articles I’m writing, content creation or strategy planning. I take my iPhone when I run as I use the Strava app, so I often use the Voice Memos app to record thoughts.

 

These are just a few thoughts I wanted to share on how ideas can be formulated and what works for me. Let me know in the comments of other idea and creativity methods that you love to use!

 

 

 

 

CJ Dayrit

creative

Here’s To The Creatives

Wow. It’s almost eight months since I’ve actually managed to write anything for myself. My workload has been ridiculously heavy of late, with various projects running at the same time. Now that has eased, I can finally sit down and muse over topics that interest me. Today, it was creativity and our children.

Home-Education

Consulting mostly from my home office affords me the privilege of being able to home-educate our youngest daughter. The Dad also is self-employed, so between us, we are able to facilitate a bespoke educational experience for Miss E.

We home-educated our eldest, Miss P, on and off for several years, but by the time she reached 10, she decided she wanted to go back to mainstream school and is currently finishing her first year of high school. It suits her.

Little Miss E however, is an entirely different child.

We sent her to school – a small village primary, of around 46 kids – when she was just four-years-old, with the condition that the first six months would be flexi-schooling, i.e. half days. This worked quite well. Then she progressed to full days. I’ve never seen the spark wither from a child’s soul so quickly.

She became so tired, anxious, nail-biting and bed-wetting very quickly. Compared to her peers, she was simply doll-like. She was a late-summer baby and physically tiny. She looked out-of-place. Then she came home with wet pants. The teaching assistant (who was her full-time teacher and not qualified) refused to let her go to the toilet; said she could wait until break time. Who does that? When a small child says they need to pee, they are literally on the cusp of wetting their pants.

The final straw (along with the poor welfare considerations on a major environmental threat to the school) was when she started pulling out her own eyelashes during the night. I was devastated.

She didn’t return to school.

Creativity, Unfurled

Over the next few years of being at home and learning in her own way, space and time, we saw our child return to her former magical self. She had always been a creative little dot; regularly on the go with some sticky art or gluey craft activity. This returned with a force, and her art took on a large-scale form, with canvases and creations from her own imagination, springing up around the house and garden.

Here's to the Creatives

She often finds a recipe she’s seen – Matilda and the Ramsey Bunch is an absolute favourite of hers – and recreates it. Mary Berry is her cake hero. I wouldn’t think twice about leaving her in the kitchen to get on with cooking or baking. She will occasionally shout through to my office: “Mammy, I’m doing this but what does the measurement look like on the scales? Don’t come in, just tell me where to look.”

She has a maths programme on her tablet, English workbooks and whatever else takes her fancy, we make happen for her. She loves to watch YouTube tutorials on hairstyles, and then practice on me or her sister. She’s pretty amazing. The same goes for art, nail art, sculpture, slime-making…anything creative or art-orientated, she’s all over it.

And luckily, she is able to do that. There is no interruption or time limits to her learning, nor any prescriptive programmes or curriculums to follow.

I’m not saying I’m anti-school; but I am pro individual learning.

The current state of education in the UK is pretty shambolic. No longer do our teachers get to actually teach in order to impart knowledge; schools are centred around tests, tests, more tests, government red tape, and yet more tests. The ongoing budgetary squeezes from the Tory government have impacted subject provision, namely creative studies. The arts have taken an entire battering, marginalised for the traditional subjects such as maths and science.

How then, do our creative children flourish?

How do we help blossom, those kids who are a whizz with mechanical stuff under a car bonnet that would baffle most people? Or those enlightened young artists with a vision beyond most adults’ understanding? Or those children that have a beautiful heart and are true peacemakers? A curriculum does not and cannot provide these life, living and hands-on skills that are so desperately needed in our gloomy adult world.

One size does not fit all. I worry for those children who will grow into adults, never having realised the full power of a creative life, occupation or influence.

Here’s my thoughts on ways to help your child(ren) discover their creative flair – they’re all tried and tested by our household!

Five Ways to Help Children Be Creative

  1. Leave them alone. Seriously, don’t fill their every waking moment with clubs, organised activities and ‘things’. Let them just be. This doesn’t include using digital devices incessantly (see my blog on gadget-free days). Let them be bored. Let them create their own entertainment. It’s valuable learning. Play is wholly underrated.
  2. Be their guide, not their teacher. For instance, if they’re interested in arts and craft, help them to make a box of paints and crafty bits. A dedicated drawer, table or corner, space-dependent, is ideal for them to build their collection of art kit. Inspiration comes from a wide variety of sources: outdoors, museums, old magazines, car journeys etc – use wherever and whatever you’re doing to provide a rich environment for ideas.
  3. Encourage reading. Self-reading and reading to your children. Whatever their age – my mother read to me still when I was 15. If they don’t enjoy reading a book themselves, what about audiobooks? Both of my kids love audio books at night, when reading is not as enticing to tired eyes. An audiobook can carry you away to another world.
  4. Make sure it’s fun. Being creative isn’t a reward-driven activity to elicit praise: it should be about the experience itself and always fun.
  5. Empower your children to be problem solvers. During war years, austerity and rationed goods meant households were part of the ‘make do and mend’ culture. This automatically fostered creativity, purely out of the need to survive on whatever people had. Whilst I’m not suggesting you return to that extreme completely in the present day, there is a lot to be said for parents who fix things themselves. And this battles against the dreadful throw-away culture we live in. Children are then able to learn being creative on practical levels by watching their parents ‘have a go’.

Here’s to the creative ones. The ones who see colour on a dark day. The ones whose perfectly crafted words can comfort, inspire, teach and motivate. The ones whose clever brushwork can create an artwork that can bring people to tears. The ones who play music from their soul to silence an entire room. The gentle hearts that bring peace to others’ disagreements. The ones who have the skills to design, make and fix. The ones who feel it, but don’t quite know their gift just yet.

May they forever add light to the world.

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Five Tips to Help Find Your Creative Writing Mojo Again

And then it strikes. The empty-headed, no-words, holy-shit-what-am-I-going-to-do? feeling. I’ve had my fair share of word-droughts over the years and I know that writer’s block or whatever you want to call it, does exist and is a very real experience. Of course, plenty of people state writer’s block is a nonsense and, *shock, horror*, just an excuse for not getting on with it. To those superior types of people: it’s no excuse when your head is submerged with the equivalent of creative custard and you’ve a looming deadline. And still, no words are forthcoming.

When writer’s block hits you, it hits heavier than the absurdity that ‘Brexit means Brexit’.

What is the best way to release the grip of literary doom? How do other people do it? Whether you’re a blogger, copywriter, marketer or simply anyone who creates written content, then take a look at my tried and tested five *practical tips on how to shake up the creativity again and bring the words.

*No sacrificial animals required.

 

 

1. Take a break. I’m serious. Walk away and leave your desk. If the word vacuum is to be filled, then you need to change your activity to give your brain some space for the neural networks to start firing again. The longer you stare at a blank screen or notepad, the harder it will be to create meaningful content. And the more maddened you’ll get with yourself.

2. Exercise. There is actually a scientific point here. The release within the body of endorphin hormones during work-outs are known to improve mood and produce the neurobiological ‘runner’s high‘ phenomenon. A study by Steinberg recorded a 25% improvement in mood following physical exercise, but the results also demonstrated that exercise had a marked improvement on creativity levels.

Whenever I’m out road-running, I regularly have lightbulb moments for articles I’m writing or words for content creation. In fact, some of these ideas seem so darn great, I smile smugly whilst running. It’s good because it also masks the pain. I’ve previously taken a tiny notebook out running with me, to scribble down these sparkling thoughts, but it got too disruptive and sweaty to maintain. I should really hook-up with a dictaphone.

3. Make a cup of tea. Terribly British, I know! There’s something soothing and ritualistic about making a cuppa. Black, white or green tea – all are packed with antioxidants to boost your immune system. Green tea is particularly good, however, as it contains L-Theanine – a tea compound classed as a nootropic. There is evidence that it can increase creativity and focus, whilst reducing the body’s stress response and anxiety levels – a healthier rival to hitting the coffee pot for your pick-me-up. The herbal brew, yerba mate, is both stimulating and without the crash that coffee can bring following consumption. Author Tim Ferriss attributes yerba mate as his recipe for creativity-on-demand (I’m currently experimenting with yerba mate so I will report my findings in another blog post).

4.  Get off social media. I don’t think this one needs explaining much further. See my thoughts on the deathly brain-drain of social saturation within this article I wrote on Time Management; point 4.

5. Journalling. It’s not just for the heart-searching folk out there. Journalling can be both a powerful and strategic method for boosting focus and creativity. Buy yourself a dedicated notebook where you can keep all of your ideas, thoughts, muses, sketches, goals etc. Life Coach Robin Sharma is a great advocate of journalling to show gratitude and how to inspire and grow yourself as a person. By writing your thoughts down, you’re releasing any worries, fears or anxieties. Thus freeing up thinking space so creativity can present itself. Author Julia Cameron endorses her ritual of Morning Pages – three A4 pages of writing each morning – as an effective writing tool, scribbling whatever comes forth into your stream of thoughts, emptying your head of worries and ‘stuff’, before you start work for the day. It’s like a deep-cleansing of brain clutter. It doesn’t have to make sense and you will be the only one who ever reads it. Try it!

Creative Mojo

 

These are my five top moves to smash the block and kick-start creativity. I’d love to hear yours!

Writing Mojo

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