Last time, we looked at different ways to approach capturing and noting down all those ideas that come to us at odd moments, so we can turn them into tangible and beautiful things. Now that we have an array of suitable and versatile receptacles, we’ll look at the actual generation and cultivation of ideas with which to fill them.
Mind maps are the perennial idea-generating go to, because they work. And there’s something very satisfying about seeing a page covered with ideas in little circles with spider legs sticking out of them; they seem to generate further ideas just from being laid out in this way.
Brainstorming is of course another essential. Double the capacity by doing it with a friend, depending on your project. You could allow ideas to surface while talking it through, or both write down everything you can think of around your project. I suggest some sort of delicious edible as a thank you.
Think laterally. You can very effectively cross-pollinate ideas from your realm of expertise with those from other apparently unconnected areas. I’ve had ideas come to me while doing the most unlikely, seemingly unrelated things. Think of Marcel Duchamp’s ‘Fountain’; the quintessential ‘no art materials’ art idea. It may not be to your taste aesthetically, but his lateral thinking changed the course of art history.
Open up. Think of your mind as a fertile ecosystem, ready for new seeds of inspiration at any given moment. It can take practice to make it a habit, but it’s not hard to cultivate a background view of the world that is always asking ‘Could I see this differently?’
Take it outside. Walking is a notoriously idea-generating activity, and the world outside our front door offers an infinite wealth of catalysts. From nature to billboards, we have a visual feast available to us at any time; all that’s required is for us to notice, and allow the ideas to emerge from what we absorb.
Although this list is, of course, not exhaustive, it is still quite a lot to carry around in your head; however, even just picking one or two and playing with them will generate more ideas than you know what to do with! Although of course you do know what to do with them, now that you have a beautiful system for noting them down and keeping them safe.
Whatever system you evolve for yourself, I highly recommend keeping small notepads with designated writing instruments beside them in strategic places around your home and work place. Especially by the bed, in the bathroom, and in the pocket of your most used coat.
Just knowing they are there tells your mind that ideas are welcome.
And that is an excellent place to start.
How do you generate ideas? What’s your favorite way to store them? Have you ever had a straight-from-source idea come from somewhere unexpected?