“Ideation” is the buzzword. But whatever you call it, it doesn’t happen unless you let it. And don’t think “ideation,” or generating great creative only happens when there is a group in a room with a whiteboard. In fact, in my experience, that’s not where it really happens. It can be a catalyst, to be sure. And there are specific guidelines for group ideation. What this little post is about is those times when you're on your own, searching for that original thought...
After many hours of staring at blank Word document pages, I've finally learned that brilliant ideas rarely come when your fingers are poised over the keyboard (or whiteboard). I've almost literally tried to squeeze the ideas out of my computer. In the end, the solution has always been a change in scenery. For you, it might be a seat in your favorite coffee house, as you mine the surrounding conversations (or use them as white noise); a long walk; an hour during your commute; a hot, languid shower. The key is to mix it up. And when I say "mix it up," I mean, not just at the time you are trying to extract brilliance out of the ether. Mix up your day. Your week. Get out of your rut. Wake up an hour early. An hour late (yes!). Changes in your routine will scramble those neurons just enough to let something new percolate to the conscious mind. Utilize that memo app for just such occasions.
I'm sure you've heard this one: "there's no such thing as a bad idea" Well, yes. Sort of. When you are in search of a new, compelling, grab-your-audience-by-the-throat creative, then yes, don't throw out any ideas that come. What by itself may be a bad idea, coupled with another idea, may be the genesis of a genius idea... if that makes any sense (it did to me when I wrote it-- but perhaps it was a bad idea). Write down the ideas. Write up some rough concepts based on the ideas you like at the moment. Then:
LET IT GO
That's right, walk away. Work on a completely different project. Immerse yourself in a new atmosphere for a while. Go to movie. A bar. Whatever.
In an hour (that's usually too soon), a day, a week... come back to your list of ideas and concepts. Some that you couldn't find a way to develop, will suddenly make sense. Some you thought were brilliant (usually the ones to which you devoted the most time) will look dull, even dumb. Work on some more concepts. At this point you may either need to walk away again, or you may be ready to run a couple of concepts by a colleague. A friend. Spouse. Cat.
Be patient. Repeat the process. The brilliance will come.