Think of those old chemistry movies we used to watch in school. Atoms floating around everywhere when two collide and bam! A chemical reaction.
Maybe something new was created. Maybe something exploded. Or, maybe it just fizzled out, and nothing happened.
Well, a similar reaction goes on inside your brain (aka muse) all the time. Except, instead of it being atoms floating around, it’s pieces of information or other ideas.
As they drift about, they occasionally bump into each other. And when that happens, you may get a new, third idea. Or a big explosion. Or absolutely nothing at all.
Of course, the more atoms/info/ideas you have bouncing around, of the more reactions there will be. Some will fail. Some will be mediocre. And some will be hot—so hot, so full of energy, they’ll have the power to change the trajectory of a business. Or even a life!
The problem occurs when you don’t have lots of them bouncing around. Fewer atoms mean fewer reactions. And on top of that, you still have to weed through the invariable duds. So, the odds of landing that one amazing idea drop considerably.
But never fear—there’s good news. You can increase your odds of getting a reaction that results in one of those awesome new ideas. Better yet, it’s fairly easy and painless to do.
Feeling stuck? In a rut? Maybe you haven’t “fed” your creative muse enough. More here.
Here are three techniques to get started:
1. Read, read and read some more.
I know, I know; I can hear the groans already. “But I already have too much to read. How can I fit more reading in?”
Remember, I said this was painless. The key here is to go wide and shallow.
What does that mean? Well, read lots and lots of different things, but keep it general. Read about sheep farming, finances, yoga, cooking, traveling, dog training, etc. –In other words, this is NOT deep reading. You can even skim if that’s all you have time to do.
Start by subscribing to a couple of different magazines and e-zines. General interest magazines are really good for this (Walt Disney used to read Reader’s Digest).
Scatter them around the house—by the bed, the couch, even the bathroom. Bonus tip: Put a few in your car, even, for those times when you’re stuck waiting for an appointment.
When you have a few moments, flip through them. Skim a few paragraphs. See what catches your eye.
Audio books are good for this as well; you can listen to them as you exercise, drive, do the dishes, etc.
Whatever you do, DON’T read publications related to your industry. That’s for another time. This is brain-feeding time, not keeping-up-in-your-profession time.
2. Travel the world.
Traveling has so many fabulous benefits for your creative soul, I could write an article just about that … but for now, I’ll limit my comments to brain food.
When you travel, you open yourself up to lots of new and exciting experiences—new sights, new sounds, new smells, new tastes, new textures. And they all have the ability to form a reaction with something else.
Don’t have time to hop on a plane to India? Take a day trip to a town you’ve never visited. Or, if you can only spare a few hours, seek out a park you’ve never been to, or a museum you’ve been meaning to see, or even that new cute little shop that just opened.
No matter how long you’ve lived in the same city, you can always find somewhere new to visit. And if you’re truly desperate, try walking around your neighborhood on the opposite side of the street in the opposite direction you normally walk. (Even something that little can help jolt you out of a rut.)
3. Open yourself up to new things.
This one might be the scariest … but it also has the potential to be the most powerful.
Take the time to try new things. Meet people outside your normal circle of friends. Attend associations, nonprofits, hobby groups outside of the ones you usually go to. Listen to experts speaking on topics you know nothing about. Take a class at a community college about something outside your scope of knowledge. Or even have dinner at an ethnic restaurant you’ve never tried.
Now, I’m not just talking about “typical” creative things here, like taking an art class or learning to belly dance. If you’re a creative professional, take a class on doing your own taxes, or budgeting your finances, or repairing your car. (Oooh, I bet all you creative folk just felt a chill.) The point is to really stretch yourself past your comfort zone. Make yourself uncomfortable. It’s not only a great way to grow, but it’s a fabulous way to keep your muse fat and happy.
And that helps keep the ideas flowing.
Creativity Exercises—Prepare the Banquet
Over the next month, I want you try at least one tactic from each of the above three techniques.
1. Read something you know nothing about.
Even if you only spend five minutes skimming an article about quilting when the last time you tried to sew a button on a shirt, you stabbed yourself with the needle and got blood all over the material.
2. Travel somewhere you’ve never been before.
Even if it’s an antique shop, and the most antique piece of furniture in your house is a bookshelf your parents bought from Sears when you were a little kid.
3. Stretch yourself in a different and potentially scary way.
Even if it’s attending one of those Home Depot gardening workshops despite every plant you’ve ever tried to grow didn’t, and if your thumb was any blacker, it would fall off.
You know how you work better when you’re not hungry, right?
Feed your muse, and watch what happens.
If you want to keep feeding your brain, check out my Love-Based Copy books here.