Have you ever wondered if there is a process that you can follow that will help you come up with ideas, more or less on demand?
The answer is yes, there is!
I’m not trying to convince you that it’s an easy or painless process – oh no – it’s quite a difficult process and my experience tells me that it doesn’t actually get any easier. On the other hand it can be quite comforting to know that the struggle to produce an idea or piece of writing or a new design is merely part of a process, a necessary step in producing something of value.
During the past semester I’ve been studying creativity and advertising. I did okay in the subject once I managed to overcome my self doubt, put some effort in and follow the process below.
Step 1 – Immersion
This is the fun part. It involves finding out everything you can about your topic and being on the lookout for ideas about your chosen area. For example, imagine you wanted to write an article about bananas. You would start by finding out everything there is to know about bananas. What are they used for? How long have bananas been around for? Who eats them? What are they good for? What varieties of bananas are there? Are the any famous banana eaters from history? Pretty soon you’ll know more that you ever wanted to know about your topic.
Step 2 – Let the ideas float around
In this stage you need to stop consciously doing your research and just let everything kind of meld together. Sooner or later an original idea will pop into your head, probably when you are in the shower or daydreaming about something else.
Step 3 – Write down all your ideas
Don’t judge your ideas as good or bad, just write them down or draw them, if that helps.
Step 4 – Choose the best idea
If you are creating something for yourself, choose which ever idea you like best. If you are creating something based on a brief (for example you’ve been asked to come up with a new way of selling bananas) then you’ll need to start this whole process by listening carefully to what the other person wants. You’ll need to know who is going to buy the bananas and what they might find interesting about bananas.
You’ll notice that none of these activities are particularly hard, actually they are kind of fun. What is hard is getting started.
During the course of my studies I found this excellent book called The Creative Process Illustrated. It specifically relates to advertising and copywriting and I recommend it if you are interested in this area. Here’s an amusing diagram from the book. Apologies for the swear word it contains.