How to get (and capture) ideas

July 5, 2011

Ideas are the lifeblood of the creative life. Whether you’re a poet, a pastor, or a professional contractor, ideas fuel your work. But even the most creative folks run out of ideas. So how do we stimulate more? Here are some things I do that seem to get the juices flowing again:

1) Move away from the computer. Sometimes you just got to get away from your laptop. This is hard for me to do, because there is always something to be done. But I find that when I’m in the middle of a all-consuming project, I get ideas on the commute home or on a walk with my wife and kids.

2) Listen to music. I find that music stirs my soul. I can be the world’s biggest crank with nothing in my creative tank. But if I turn on my iTunes playlist or use Pandora, the creative flow begins again.

3) Pray. Actually prayer should be the first thing you do, but it usually isn’t. Let’s be honest. We typically try everything else, then remember, “Duh, I can pray!”. We most reflect the Creator when we create, so His Spirit naturally desires to free our hearts from distraction and let our mind center on what is most important to Him.

4) Read. I find reading especially helpful. But I usually have to keep reading, because the first few pages don’t bring back my creativity. Sometimes it’s a whole chapter. Other times its a web article or blog post.

5) Have a conversation. The creative life can be solitary–you and the computer screen. But we were created for community. Sometimes the best thing you can do is pick up the phone and call a friend. Engage in a conversation, even if its about nothing. Or you might discuss your project and see if they have an angle on it you’ve missed.

6) Edit. When I’m working on a book-length project, I use the write-edit-write method. I start that day’s work by editing the previous day’s work. Fresh eyes bring out new and different angles on the manuscript and start those creative engines.

7) Watch an epic movie. This is difficult to do if you’re at work or on deadline. It’s not like you can ask your boss if it’s okay to pop in Ben Hur and break out the popcorn. But, perhaps you’ve finished your day completely and emotionally spent. It does your mind good to go home and relax with an epic movie whose story might recenter your creative impulses.

What stirs your creative impulses?