How to Grow the Idea Muscle

Creativity is like a muscle. It can be strong and supple. Or it can atrophy. Gone are the days in which it is believed that creativity is innate. Instead, like other things, we now know better. We know that people are born creative and that creativity is either nurtured or neglected. We know that creativity is not just aptitude in the arts. It is the ability to use imagination and innovation. And yes, studies show that innovation, a buzzword in many industries, can be practiced as well.

It is an odd coincidence that many of the books I’ve read this year mentioned practicing or growing creativity. To my dismay, many only talked about the artsy side of creativity, suggesting things like daily free writing or prompts, coloring, drawing, dancing, etc. I consider myself creative, but I bulk at each of those suggestions. My son’s classmates draw better than me. I have two left feet, which makes dancing more work than fun. Adult coloring books make me anxious, and my contrary nature means that I do not love writing prompts. However, I do write most days, but it is becoming less of a hobby and more of a second career.

The last book I read suggested something that might be useful for all types of creatives. Write ten ideas a day, even if they are terrible or outlandish. If and when ten become too easy, write twenty. Slowly increase the number of ideas you write as your idea muscle stretches.

These ideas can be anything. They can be job or hobby related or whimsy. Here is a list of ideas I have had over the last few years that seem stuck in my brain.

  1. Souls travel in the same circles, therefore soul mates can be lovers, but are most likely close family and friends.
  2. I want to start two nonprofit programs, one for girls and one for boys between the ages of eight and seventeen.
  3. Being on the ocean at night was one of the most terrifying and astounding experiences of my life.
  4. I should paint a self-portrait.
  5. Follow up to 4, I should learn how to paint.
  6. I love the moon. I think some people really are moon called.
  7. Selena needs to find her grandmother, The French Seer. She can break the spell.
  8. I should start a quarterly podcast or vlog.
  9. Our training guides need to be online.
  10. Maybe falling asleep when I meditate isn’t a bad thing. It’s a sign of total relaxation.
  11. I should drive on the Bay Bridge myself.
  12. I will never be brave enough to try to cure my fear of spiders.
  13. Start a program that pairs college students with elementary kids with manageable behavior issues.
  14. There are no main characters that have my name. I’m going to create one.

Try it for a week. It may feel like free association or free writing at first, but I doubt there are any rules. Write what comes. If you feel inspired, research, or try some of your ideas. After a week, if you notice a difference, continue the practice, but remember to challenge yourself. If ten becomes too easy, write ten more. If it feels like a complete waste of time, I would suggest to try it for one more week just to be sure you have pushed past any mental blocks and resistances.

Your turn. What’s on your list?

Photo by Victor Freitas