I know I left it here somewhere. Excuse me, has anyone seen my award-winning idea?
Know the feeling? Sometimes no matter how hard we try, coming up with ideas is the hardest job on earth. It’s like waiting for a bus. When all the buses have been cancelled. And you’re late. And it’s raining. Kind of. It’s frustrating is what we mean. And the harder you look for find inspiration, the more fervently you ask it to shine its divine light on your work, the more you pray for help, the more pointedly it ignores your plea.
Find Inspiration is tricky and will never show its elusive face if you simply sit and wait for it to show up. In his seminal work, A Technique for Producing Ideas, James W. Young suggests doing as much research as you can, cataloguing your findings and then doing something completely different. This approach takes confidence and the trust that your imagination will do its work without you willing it into action. But what have you got to lose? Here are a few ideas of the something completely different variety. Ideas that might just help inspiration to strike when you least expect it.
You’ll like this one. If you’re after a big idea why not take a lying down approach? How many times have you been just about to nod off when you hit on a great idea, only to have forgotten it in the morning? Get yourself ready for bed, pyjamas, cocoa and all and make sure you’ve got a notebook and pen on your bedside table.
The brilliant TED Talks videos cover a huge range of discussion topics fronted by credible and fascinating speakers. You can find them online, and even if you don’t get inspiration they’re sure to open your mind to some new ideas along the way.
Get out of the office and go somewhere. Anywhere! Whether it’s a long coastal walk or a hard-core hike, getting out and filling your lungs with fresh air does wonders for blowing out the cobwebs in your brain. It also helps give you a sense of perspective on your creative problem.
To be creative you need to be feeling playful. You can’t get all tensed up and try to squeeze an idea out. It won’t work. Do something that helps you find your inner child. Chase your art director round the studio. Play stuck in the mud with your clients. Or simply go and find something that gives you huge belly laughs. You’ll be surprised how much more quickly the ideas flow once you’ve rediscovered your sense of humour.
In a bar
Now we’re not suggesting you go out and get blind drunk. But taking your team for a drink, either in a coffee shop or at the nearest pub can help. One gin and tonic might be all it takes to unlock creativity.
On a train
People are brilliant. And by simply sitting back and doing a spot of people watching you can come up with some great ideas. Airport lounges, train stations and shopping centre food courts are all good locations to try.
Grab a pen and notebook and start to write. Write anything. You’ll find you come up with some crazy stuff once you let yourself really explore what’s in your head. Journalling is a useful tool on many levels. It allows you to keep a record of your project for future reference. It’s also fun to look back and cringe at your efforts a few years down the line too.
On the horizon
Get up super early or go to bed very late, your call. But taking in a glorious sunset is a sure-fire way to open your eyes to the possibilities of the world around you. If you can get to a beach even better!
In the car
Go for a long drive, make it late at night if you can. There’s something comforting in the automatic nature of driving that frees your mind to focus on other tasks. Enjoy the solitude and silence and see where your brain takes you. If you don’t drive you could try cycling.
In the bathroom
Light yourself some candles and enjoy a long soak. Or take a tough crossword puzzle for an hour in repose and deep thought. These eureka moments can happen at times – and in places – you’d least expect.