Alfred Hitchcock said, “Ideas come from everywhere.” So why is it that when we are most in need of a great idea, they are suddenly nowhere to be found?
I have heard a few times the lamenting of people who share a love for art and design, but just don’t think it is for them because they don’t fancy themselves as the creative type. Whether or not you want to be an artist, we all could use a little more creativity. Who wouldn’t like to pull out a creative idea on demand during an important meeting or avoid procrastinating on a project right up to the 11th hour?
There is one generally acknowledged truth about creativity: that it cannot be rushed. It is a widely prescribed notion that ideas come to us, and that somehow implies that we can just sit around and wait for them. But nothing is really that easy. If you want ideas to come to you, then you must do some of the legwork. Here are three things that you can do to become an idea magnet.
These three things are the ideas behind the three basic tools of creative practice introduced by Julia Cameron in her series, The Complete Artist’s Way: Creativity as a Spiritual Practice (1992).
1. Make space
Tool #1: Morning Pages
Cameron advises that you spend about a half hour every morning writing three pages stream-of consciousness in order to clear your mind of clutter and let go of stresses in order to allow yourself to focus on the important things through out the day. I find a suitable alternative to this tool is the humble to-do list. I sometimes write several of these a day as circumstances and priorities change. By getting everything down on paper, I no longer need to concentrate on retaining all of those little details or things for later, so I am better able to concentrate on the task at hand and I am less distracted.
Tool #2: The Artist’s Date
Cameron says, “the artist who forgets how to play soon enough forgets how to work”. She is referring to the play of imagination that is essential for creative thought to take place. In order to nurture this state of play, she suggests setting a weekly solo date with yourself to “explore something festive or interesting in your imagination”. She gives the example of visiting a toy store and treating yourself to some of the fun trinkets, like playing with Lego. I believe the same benefits can be had by trying anything new and out of the ordinary, either solo or with a small group. This could be something as simple as playing a new game or something bold like visiting a new city. Continued exploration forces your mind to make new connections and sets the stage for new ideas.
3. Walk it off
Tool #3: Weekly Walks
“Walk on it” is Cameron’s advice for any problem that troubles the mind. Often when we have a problem we turn to brainstorming, with the belief that, “the head is the source of all wisdom.” We overlook the fact that clearing the mind is often just as effective a problem solving technique as brainstorming. As part of her teaching, she assigns a minimum of one 20 minute walk per week, citing, “Native Americans pursue vision quests, Aborigines do walkabout. Both of these cultures know that walking clears the head…You will find that these walks focus your thinking and instigate your breakthroughs.”
The next time you need to unleash your creative beast, try these techniques. Or better yet, start now and be prepared for the ideas to start coming to you.