How To Stop Telling The Whopping Great Lie That You Never Have Enough Creative Ideas

If I asked you how many great creative ideas you’ve had in the last six months, what would you say?

Would it be:

A. Absolutely loads, they flow to me in abundance!

B. A few, I think, but I don’t really remember them very well now.

C. Hardly any. It’s the main reason I can’t be more creative.

If you went with A then I’m delighted for you. This article isn’t for you, keep doing what you’re doing and those ideas will keep flowing.

For the other 90% or so of us who would answer B or C, there is one huge reason why this is not true.

I Never Told A Lie And That Makes Me A Liar
image: cake-face

In fact not only is it not true, it’s a whopping lie on the scale of that time you told your school teacher that no, your dog didn’t eat your homework, it was snatched surreptitiously overnight from your room while you slept, by a pack of rabid alien dogs with three heads and blue fur. Or something equally absurd.

The reason that saying you don’t have any creative ideas is not true is because the major evidence is that you don’t develop them, not that you don’t have them in the first place.

And the reason you don’t develop them? Yes there are things like fear or being overwhelmed or being such a perfectionist you don’t want to even start in case it goes wrong.

But bigger than that, and a lot less sophisticated, is this simple reason:

You don’t think you have many creative ideas because you don’t remember them.

How many times have you been doing something else entirely such as washing dishes, or driving to work, or gardening, and a flash of a brilliant idea comes to you? You feel that old excitement rising in your blood, all that promise, all that potential, all that wonder that this idea could evolve into.

It’s such a strong and brilliant idea, you think, that there’s no way you could forget it. But for now, you’ll put it away safely in your memory banks to work on when you have more time.

So… Days, weeks, even months later, you remember having this incredible idea, but tiny fragments float elusively at the edge of your consciousness like a lost dream slowly sinking beneath the ocean’s surface and into its shadowy depths never to be seen again.

However hard you try to remember the idea, there’s nowhere near enough of it left to do anything with. You end up completely frustrated and feeling, yet again, that you never have any decent creative ideas.

This whole calamity of wasted potential creativity can be avoided so simply.

When those ideas come to you (and they will ALWAYS come to you, if you let them) capture them in their full glory.

You can use a notebook and pencil, a voice recorder, a camera, whatever is most appropriate and convenient for you. Record enough of the idea that when you return to it, you feel that same glow and excitement in your tummy.

For example, don’t just jot down: “Girl. Crayon. Adventures.” Instead, write: “9 year old girl, red jacket, striped stockings, magic crayon, changes colour, draws portals into other words…”

This tiny action will take you all of about ten seconds. But the value in doing it is priceless.

The best part of all is that more you start capturing your ideas, the more ideas will flow to you. You and your notebook (/camera/recorder) become a giant ideas magnet with a flashing sign on top saying “All ideas welcomed with loving arms. Chocolate, champagne and a free massage also provided.”

Ideas will LOVE you. And flock by the dozen.

But only if you capture them.

Start trying this today, and capture all the ideas you have, without judgement. Just get them recorded, you can come back later and use however much or little of them as you wish.

If you genuinely give this a good shot for a few weeks, you’ll come back to this article and be answering our question above with a bright shiny resounding “A”.

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5 thoughts on “How To Stop Telling The Whopping Great Lie That You Never Have Enough Creative Ideas”

  1. You’ve hit the nail on the proverbial noggin.

    I also think sometimes we’re afraid of the empty space between ideas. If we’re not confident in our ability to generate ideas, we can mistake the emptiness with ‘no ideas’ rather than the mental preamble as the brain makes room for what is about to come. So rather than panic about not having an idea, it’s often better to find a comfy chair, a warm drink and some doodling supplies.

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    1. That is a great point Jessica. Letting the ideas come. I’ve found that the more I get into the habit of capturing ideas, the more easily they come anyway. For example I have a text file always open in my laptop for article ideas and titles. If I’m ever short of inspiration I go there for something, and I’m always adding new ones. What happens though, is after you’ve done this for a few months (probably even less), you just generate the ideas far more easily and don’t rely on the ideas journal/file so much anyway. Your mind just gets into the habit of easily producing ideas.

      It gives you more confidence, and you don’t panic when you’re in that state of “emptiness”, because you know new ideas will come, because they always have before.

      The concept of the “mental preamble” has given me a few ideas for future articles about that incubation time we need, and that’s as essential part of creating as actually making stuff.

      Thanks for your input.

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  2. I can’t emphasize enough how important that ideas notebook is. I finally learned that I will not remember the creative idea (especially the details) if I don’t make a note of it. Now I have a notebook full of art ideas and when glancing through it, I’ll often think, “Oh, yeah! THAT idea!” and realize it would have been long forgotten had it not been notated. It’s also a good way to get re-inspired if I’m not feeling creative.

    Now to get past the fear that the final result won’t compare to the original vision! Maybe I can actually make all those ideas a reality 🙂

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  3. Exactly Diane, all those “THAT idea”s that otherwise would’ve been lost forever.

    I think another important factor is to try to capture the idea as vividly as possible when it comes to you, so when you do return it still gives you the same thrill, rather than leaving you thinking “what was that one one about again?”

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