16 Ways to Increase Creativity and Generate Clever Ideas

This post, from Seth M. Baker, originally appeared on his Happenchance blog on 9/15/09.

Do you ever feel like someone replaced your brain with a cinder block?

Has your river of brainy brilliance turned to a sluice of stumped stupidity?

No matter what kind of work you do, sometimes you run into a wall; the ideas dry up and you feel anything but creative. It happens to everyone. Don’t worry. You’re not alone. You need a break. You need a strategy. You need a saga.

Here’s your saga, delivered in 16 steaming hot points. Use them, abuse them, but do tell me how they work for you.

1. Consistent Effort If you make a consistent effort to create new things, you’re bound to have results. If you just wait around for inspiration to strike, you could be waiting for a long time. Inspiration tends to strike those who are already in the middle of the creative process. A reward, if you will, for your diligent work.

2. Record Everything Keep a notebook, sketchbook, or recording device handy at all times. Ideas are slippery as eels, and if you wait too long, the damn things will swim away. If you have a smashing idea just before you fall asleep, you probably won’t remember it in the morning, and if you’re driving or rolling on the subway, something else will distract your attention.

3. Elaborate on Something If you’ve already made something cool, go back and see if you can’t expand on it. Especially if some time has passed and an idea has had time to incubate, you’ll have new things to add, angles to elaborate on.

4. Switch Gears If you’re doing brain work, do body work, and vice versa. If you’re writing a report, do a puzzle, if you’re building a sculpture of a giant chrome sponge, sing a song.

5. Think Laterally Look for associated ideas, especially while you’re already working on something. As I’m writing this, I’ve had ideas for four six more posts. While I won’t use them all, it’s nice to have them to draw from.

6. Mind Maps Mind maps are effective because they make the most of lateral, horizontal thinking. They give you a chance to put a lot of information down about a topic without worrying about actually organizing the information. This is just my opinion, but mind maps may be a close representation of how thoughts are structured. Here’s the wiki entry.

7. Don’t be Afraid of Bad Ideas When you have a lot of bad ideas, you’re bound to have good ones. Plus, with lots of bad ideas you’ll have less trouble telling the good from the bad.

Read the rest of the post, which features tips #8-16, on Happenchance. Also read the follow-up post, 14 More Ways to Increase Creativity and Generate Clever Ideas, also written by Seth M. Baker, on the same site.