Written by: Christopher Sell
Primary Source: The Wednesday Wake Up
I hate it when the great ideas aren’t flowing.
It’s like a dam that disrupts the flow of a river.
Creative ideas are funny creatures. They are more like cats than puppies. They will most likely not jump up and down when they see you; tail wagging, wanting your attention. They notice when you arrive at the page/screen/studio, walk by you, rub against your leg, and then jump on the kitchen counter, then on top of the refrigerator and stare at you. Laughing. Proving to you that you will not control them.
I wish the creative ideas ran through me like a rapid river. I wish I knew the special music, tune, and tone to play to get an idea to come out and dance on command. Creative ideas require patience and wooing. If they sense desperation, that I’m pressed up against a deadline, or that I’m trying to reenact the magic that happened in some other creative time, the ideas quit on me. They sit on top of the refrigerator with paws crossed and stare at me, daring me to try and create without them.
Whether you are an artist, account executive, lawyer, counselor, leader, parent, student, or avid Scrabble player, here are some tips on what to do when the idea won’t show up:
Give yourself plenty of time
I have learned to stop making unrealistic promises to people. The creative process takes time whether we like it or not, so we need to be fair to our ideas and to ourselves.
The idea is going to have its say, and sometimes it’s not going to have its say while you are sitting at your desk, pen in hand, staring at your MacBook. Sometimes the idea is going to have its say right as you are about to drift to sleep, in the middle of a meeting, or by interrupting a conversation. You are better off not forcing its hand, but riding with its rhythms.
Walk away for a bit
In the same way muscles can experience fatigue, your creativity can experience fatigue too. Give yourself and the idea a rest. Come back in a day or two. Then the idea might be ready to see you.
Run around a bit
Some of my best ideas have come when I’m purposefully trying not to come up with great ideas — when I’m exercising. It’s not uncommon for a great idea to pop up in my mind during my routine morning workout session. Clearing our minds while exercising often opens up our minds to the creative energy we’ve been lacking.
Let the idea be itself
Ever since we can remember, we have all been on a constant quest to be ourselves. To prove to people that we’re cool, awesome, hipster-y. The coolest thing we can be is exactly who we are without trying to become someone or something else. Your idea wants that same courtesy. Let your idea be itself. Eventually, it will sidle next to your leg, jump in your lap and let you know it’s ready to be become a reality.
And if none of these ideas work, then maybe you’re next step is to get a cat. It can’t hurt.