Here you go again: You face a creative challenge and you desperately need ideas on how to resolve it. You think hard about ideas, but the harder you think, the more blocked you become. But have you ever realized that your everyday life is overflowing with creative inspirations? You can easily turn these cues into ideas for your challenge, provided you’re open and receptive to all those creative stimuli that await at every corner. Today, let me share with you ten everyday moments to inspire ideas for a creative challenge you need to resolve.
How to prepare for creative inspiration?
To get started, have a creative challenge (related to your work or life) that you want to work on. Write it down into your notebook in the form of an action question that starts with the words “How to”. For example, your challenge could read: “How to create a smashing marketing campaign for the holiday season?”
Then, take part in everyday activities with an open, receptive mind. Notice any stimuli that you encounter during the day; write down this associative input into your notebook, and aim to fill at least one page with it. Associative input may be words or —even better— full sentences, slogans, taglines, lyrics in a song, quotations, photos and other visual cues.
Finally, review all the input that you’ve collected and ask: How may this relate to my challenge? How might I use this input as a springboard to launch ideas? Then, jot down all ideas that come to your mind. Suspend your critical judgment and focus on letting all ideas flow onto your paper.
How to get everyday inspirations for ideas?
Here are 10 ways to use everyday moments and situations to collect input for ideation. Don’t forget to make notes of what you experience, which makes it easy to turn associations into ideas for your challenge:
1. Soak in advertisements on your daily commute. Consciously tune in to ads and slogans that vie for your attention. Don’t let all that marketing noise tempt you into consumption, but instead use the bold taglines and unusual visual cues for creative inspiration.
2. See a movie. Go to your favorite cinema and watch a movie with an active, open mind. Focus on unusual story plots, funny or emotional moments, great dialogue lines, unusual tools or tactics, and anything else that you find noteworthy. All those associations may trigger ideas.
3. Zap through the TV. Press the remote control and zap through the channels for 15 minutes. Whenever you see something interesting, stop and attentively listen in, then zap on as soon as you feel bored. Surfing channels quickly gives you a wide range of diverse associative stimuli.
4. Tune in to the radio. Keep the radio play in the background during work. Whenever you hear an striking lyric line in a song or a engaging comment by the radio show host, jot it down.
5. Meet a friend for a coffee or drink. Move beyond the usual chit-chat. Ask your friends to share their ideas for your challenge. Even better, ask them to share stories — for example, the weirdest situation they have experienced in life. Note down all details of the experience. And, of course, be ready to share your story first.
6. Eavesdrop on conversations. You sit in a public space and some “loudspeakers” make everyone unwillingly part of their private conversation. Don’t be shy; listen in when you’re desperate for an idea. How may the things they’re talking or bragging about help you to resolve your challenge?
7. Surf the Internet or social media sites. Nowadays, we’re drowning in information shared in the Internet or social media. Dive in for half an hour when you need creative stimuli. Do it with the intent to soak up as many visual and verbal stimuli as possible, and make (mental) notes of interesting things you see.
8. Browse through the newspaper or a pile of magazine. Here you follow a similar approach as before. However, instead of digital contents on a device, you flip through paper prints of the analog world.
9. Review your old notebooks. Counterintuitively, a great way to get new ideas is to go through your old thoughts and ideas in your old notebooks. “Everything is connected to everything else”, as Leonardo da Vinci noted. Connecting an old idea to a new challenge often leads to surprising new insights and ideas. Thomas Edison regularly used this strategy to successfully resolve creative challenges.
10. Sweat it out. Finally, do something good for yourself and at the same time get creative inspiration. How? Work out daily. Recall your challenge before you enjoy a run, a brisk walk, a swim, a workout in the gym, or a yoga session. Keep an open mind while you sweat an allow any idea to enter your mind. And you’re like most people, ideas will flow right from your subconscious mind once you get into a rhythm.
Conclusion: Creativity lies in every moment — provided you’re open and know how to turn everyday occasions into opportunities for creative inspiration.
How did I get the idea for this article? I was on my Yoga mat, doing 108 sun salutations and was just reciting the mantra “Creative ideas and inspirations are coming to me everyday”, when it hit me what I should write about.
Are you interested in getting more tips on how to get creative and becoming a genius? Check out our Genius Journey method for more inspiration, and contact us if you want to become an authentic creative leader.
© Dr. Detlef Reis 2015. This article is published in parallel in the Bangkok Post under the same title on 29 October 2015.