You’ve hit a dry spell.
You’re looking for your next great idea–whether an invention, the plot of your next novel, or your company’s new marketing campaign. But no matter what you do, the wheels won’t turn. The spark won’t light.
It happens to the best of us. But that’s hardly comforting when your career, your future, and your creativity may be on the line. You start to worry. What if you’ve used up all your good ideas? What if this isn’t just a phase, but a permanent condition?
The good news? It’s probably not permanent.
The not-so-good news? It could become permanent, if all you do is wait for the dry spell to pass.
Fortunately, you have options. Maybe your idea machine just needs a little oil to get the wheels turning again. Or maybe you need to make a more long-term investment.
Either way, check out my 12 tips to help you stimulate creativity and generate ideas.
1. Read a lot. Read articles you don’t agree with. Read books published before you were born. Reread your favorites. Read books from authors of a different culture. Read books in genres you don’t usually choose.
2. Practice idea generation. Every day, write down 5-10 ideas. They can be about anything: a new invention, new car names, blog post titles. They don’t have to be good or practical ideas; you just have to get into the habit of thinking up something every day.
3. Take a relaxing, no-rush shower.
4. Have a conversation with friends. The kind where the time flies and you laugh a lot.
5. Listen to a favorite song and overanalyze the lyrics.
6. Take a long drive.
7. Visit an art museum. Take your time going through the exhibits and studying individual works.
8. Take a walk–without headphones. Just listen to the sounds around you and let your mind wander.
9. Ask people questions. Really listen to the answers.
10. This one is morbid, but it’s especially good for writing: Read obituaries from another town. Think about these peoples’ lives, where they lived, what they’ve accomplished, who they left behind. See what grabs your attention the most–whether it’s their name, their occupation, or what they request in lieu of flowers.
11. Think about a movie, book, or TV episode that you didn’t like, or that fell short of your expectations. Analyze the flaws. List all the ways you think it could be improved.
12. Be quiet. Spend 15-30 minutes with no music, no TV, no other people or distractions. Don’t try to clear your mind–just give it room to wander without extra outside stimuli.
13. BONUS WRITING EXERCISE: Pick an object, like a knickknack in your house, or a picture of a person. Write a physical description of it, going into as much detail as you can. To take it further, write about the object or person’s significance to you.
Like any other good thing in life, the best ideas require a little assembly. They don’t spring out of your head fully-formed, like Athena.
It’s more like a bountiful harvest.
Generating a flow of good ideas takes some cultivation, patience, and continuous effort. Sometimes you get a few bad seeds that go nowhere. Sometimes you have to weed out bad ideas so the good ones can flourish.
But, like the results of a good harvest, your new ideas can be profitable and delicious!