Each month we bring you our new favorite tool or trick to jumpstart your creativity. November’s Creative Fuel is focused on using the creative process itself as you would any tool—with practice—so you can experience the art of producing your best, self-expanding ideas.
This primary topic of idea creation brings up age-old questions: Where do good ideas come from? What sparks creativity? How does one find inspiration? While art and creative genius was once attributed to muses and external forces, today some of our greatest minds have defined creativity down to a science. Einstein said we must follow our instincts to find new insights. Steve Jobs believed that connecting experiences allows us to synthesize innovative and more creative ideas. Given this, creative people benefit from observing a diverse range of experiences and trusting instinct to filter this knowledge so they can start making new connections that turn into innovative ideas.
An idea is nothing more than a new combination of old elements.
While everyone has his or her own creative process, we’d like to introduce you to some cognitive methodology from the legendary ad man, James Webb Young. Maria Popova, the mind behind the intriguing blog Brain Pickings, discussed this book recently and we want to share it with you.
Written in 1939, A Technique for Producing Ideas is relevant and thought-provoking today—proving its methodology can stand the test of time. And it’s available for less than $5—a total steal! This short read concludes that there is a definite process behind the production of ideas. And some the world’s talented and motivated creative people have followed this methodology to much success.
Young’s Simple, Five-step Process
“This technique of the mind follows five steps. I am sure that you will all recognize them individually. But the important thing is to recognize their relationship, and to grasp the fact that the mind follows these five steps in definite order—that by no possibility can one of them be taken before the preceding one is completed, if an idea is to be produced.” ~ James Webb Young
- Gather Raw Material—Curiosity and the patience to browse are two noticeable characteristics of highly creative people. Use Pinterest to collect and keep tabs on your musings.
- Digest the Material—Absorb everything and practice critical thinking. Consider how different elements can inform each other. Link the specific facts to broad human experiences. Try Mental Notes.
- Unconscious Processing—Let your unconscious do the work while getting into something fun! Go for a walk, ride your bike, take in a museum, meet a friend for lunch; turn to whatever stimulates your imagination.
- The A-ha Moment—The connection is made! The idea is formed! It may wake you up out of a dead sleep, so keep your notepad handy.
- Idea Meets Reality—Set your idea free into the wild! Be open to all feedback and learn from the criticism. You might have to adapt and rework, but that’s all part of the process.
Steps 1 and 2 can and should be woven into your everyday. Always be on the look out for inspiration. When it comes time to dream up a creative solution, use the rest of the steps to help turn your gained knowledge into your next big idea.
We hope you find the wise words of Young refreshing, and start making more creative connections a daily habit. Leave us a note below and let us know your thoughts! Looking for more inspiring tips and tricks? Check out last month’s Creative Fuel, for some though-provoking tools for your creative process.
Be on the lookout for more informative musings in our next Creative Fuel!