This is a guest blog by Edeline Wrigh artist, writer, and creativity coach.
“I wish I were creative like you. I just never have any good ideas.”
I have heard this sentiment more times than I’d dare to try to count. This isn’t a reason not to make stuff – it’s an excuse. If you believe you’re incapable of having a “good idea,” there’s no sense in trying to make anything.
On the other hand… if you truly want to generate more interesting creative ideas, here’s a key mindset shift to reframe your struggle: The more ideas you come up with, the more likely you are to be someone who comes up with good ideas.
The truth of the matter is that EVERYONE has bad ideas. I have never heard of a writer, choreographer, visual artist, filmmaker, entrepreneur, or other creative types who only had good ideas (let alone only pursued good ideas). That “obvious” or otherwise “bad” idea you came up with is probably one someone full of “good” ideas thought of, too.
My guess here? You thought of one or two bad ideas and got caught up in how bad you are at coming up with ideas instead of coming up with more ideas.
Here’s an activity to try:
Choose an object. It could be a coffee mug, chair, umbrella, paintbrush, towel… you get the picture. You don’t need the object with you, though it may be helpful to see it.
Set a timer. Say, 2 minutes, maybe 3.
Grab a sheet of paper or open a word processing document.
When you start the timer, start listing every possible use for your chosen item. Don’t self-censor – write literally any idea that comes to mind. Your goal is to get as MANY as you can; aim for 50 or more. (You probably won’t get that many, but aim high anyway.)
Let’s say you chose a coffee mug. I’m going to guess that your first item is something along the lines of “to drink coffee.” So is mine. In fact, here’s my first ten:
to drink coffee
to drink tea
to drink soda
to wear as a hat
to use as a stand
to use as a prop
to bail water out of a sinking ship
to make a wind chime
to use as a flower pot
to dig a grave
“To drink coffee.” This is a very sensible and boring idea. “To wear a hat” – kind of silly but not interesting. “To make a wind chime” isn’t something that appeals to me, personally, since I don’t do many craft projects, but if I DID I could easily be excited about it. “To dig a grave” opens up all kinds of interesting story possibilities for me.
Practice this activity with different objects if you need to get your creative juices flowing. If you’re trying to solve a particular problem, you can do this or a variation on it too – “Why did character A do X?”, “How can I organize my earring collection?”, or “What should come next in this piece of choreography?” can all be put through this test.
When you have your list of ideas, focus on the ones that intrigue you. Let yourself explore them in your head. Do a mind map, if those help you. At this point, you’re just deciding which of your awesomely creative ideas is best for your purposes.
And remember – this is a skill. It might be hard the first time or first couple of times, but the more often you practice this kind of thinking, the easier it will become… and the better the ideas you’ll come up with will be.
Edeline Wrigh is an artist, writer, and creativity coach who specializes in helping people build lifestyles full of inspiration, slay their inner creative monsters, and apply productivity techniques to actually finish their projects. Edeline uses a blend of intuitive and practical, empirically-backed strategies to approach the creative process from a place of holistic happiness and wonder that empowers individuals to take creativity into their own hands. Connect with her: