I know for a fact I had an award-winning idea while I was driving to Walgreens the other day. This was an amazing idea – the kind of idea that is so simple, yet so clever and complex, you wonder how in the world you came up with it. Sadly, by the time I bought my mint Milanos and got back to my desk, I’d forgotten what it was.
My good friend and colleague, Tiff, wrote about her own struggle with creative blocks last month and it made me think about my own. I thought about how I’ve managed to combat these little roadblocks through the years and the lessons I’ve learned every time I’ve tried to force the creative process.
So I made a list because I’m a list person, but also because I vowed (after forgetting the best idea to ever emerge from my brain, ever) to never NOT write an idea down immediately after conjuring it.
Take notes. Duh. Because ideas come out of nowhere and mostly at inopportune times, we should be prepared to capture them when they occur. A lot of people use notebooks, but I recommend using Evernote. You can collect information on this free app using your computer, tablet or smart phone and retrieve it later from anywhere by keyword search. How awesome is that?
Try freewriting. Forget about making sense. Just write. Write anything that comes into your head without thinking about style, grammar or punctuation. This helps empty the brain of the clutter and before you know it, viola! You’re writing!
Break the cycle. Don’t drive yourself crazy staring at a computer screen. If ideas don’t emerge, go outside, take a walk, play with your dog, change perspective. Did you know that Leonardo da Vinci believed that to truly understand something, you needed to look at it from at least three different perspectives? Go see what things look like from the park.
Listen. I realized not too long ago how much I learn when I shut up and listen. I treat every person I meet as a potential muse. I try to hang out with people that challenge my existing beliefs and ideas so that I can compare and decide for myself. Who said happy hour couldn’t be used for research?
Take risks. Or, like Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich implores, Get Nasty! In order to achieve great things, you must have the freedom to fail. If you are afraid of taking risks, you’ll plod through your workdays without much enthusiasm and excitement, and your writing (or whatever you do) will mirror it. At Anderson we’ve got a special trophy for our very own spectacular failures. It keeps moving around and it makes mistakes feel less like life-altering situations and more like fun-at-work experiences.