I had never thought of myself as a creative person until recently. Math and science have always been my strengths, so the arty side never took center stage.
Then I started this blog. People say that one benefit of writing is a better understanding of your own thoughts. It’s true. I’ve learned a lot about myself since starting to blog, and it’s one of the primary reasons I recommend blogging to others.
But writing on a schedule or regularly creating anything requires a lot of new ideas. When you start, you may have a backlog of these that you’ve been thinking about. But at some point you’ll need more. How do you plan to generate them?
Do a quick search for “releasing creative energy” and you’ll find a lot of articles on how to develop more ideas - going on a walk, meditating, getting outside, drinking coffee, people watching, and so on.
These are great tips to help clear your mind and allow you to find and connect new dots. But I’ve found that there’s more to it than letting my mind wander. Sometimes I need to take action to kick off creativity flow.
Check Things Off
Think about the most recent big project you completed. What did you do after it was checked off? Celebrate? Take a week off? Lie low for a while?
And how did you feel when it was done? After a big push like I did for Working with OmniFocus, I felt a huge weight lift and I started wondering what would come next. I had been working so hard for so long that not having that big project in front of me gave me a sense of freedom and excitement. It released my mind to go on to the next thing, which kicked off creative flow.
There’s something about leaving ink on a piece of paper that helps my mind process thoughts more clearly. The process of analog writing is so natural that I can move from one idea to the other with very little friction. Even hitting a keyboard shortcut to add a node to a mindmap can create enough resistance to slow my wandering brain and interfere with the next idea. I have two things to think about - the idea itself and the process of entering that idea. (Talk about high maintenance.)
Between paper and whiteboards, I’m free to roam from one topic or crazy idea to another with zero resistance to connecting the next dot. Writing by hand is natural; when I need an idea for something, I go analog and let my mind meander.
Note: a timer is helpful here. It can eliminate the worry of spending too much time daydreaming.
Talk About It
I often forget this step or don’t want to do it, but telling friends about your ideas can spark more ideas. A different perspective on a topic can lead to more connections, developing your idea into something more complete.
I don’t like to do this. What if someone steals my idea? I don’t want something I’ve come up with being taken from me. But I’ve found that rarely happens. If I stick to my trusted circle of mentors and friendships, it’s not an issue.
The more inputs and experiences you can bring into your mind, the more points you have to connect. This is partly why going for a walk, getting outside, and watching people can drive new ideas. These experiences provoke your mind to roam and give you new information to connect to your previous ideas and thoughts.
The more information you can collect about your topic and the more experiences you have, the more ingredients you have to formulate and expand your idea.
My goal in all of these scenarios is to free my mind to have ideas. If I’m able to think clearly without worry, I can create more freely.