What do you do when you can’t come up with creative ideas? Or when you have so many that you can’t even get started? Read to find out!
Are you a Creative who sometimes lands in the creative idea ditches:
Lack of ideas?
Both can leave Creatives paralyzed and often frustrated. There’s all kinds of reasons each can happen, but regardless of the cause, it absolutely stinks!
I don’t know about you, but when I get in either of these ditches – and I still do – it’s a yucky feeling.
The First Ditch
Although I firmly believe every single person is creative, sometimes inspiration doesn’t come with an “internal rush” when you just need to create, but can’t make things click in your head.
It’s a hard feeling to describe, but if you’ve been there, you know what it’s like.
There’s this welling urge inside of you to make something, to express your creative nature through a process that is fulfilling, and at the same time produce something tangible that will inspire or bring joy to others.
But sometimes it can feel like grasping at fog!
You can almost see it; you can certainly feel it; but actually taking hold of it and molding it in your hands…it’s elusive.
A Landmark of My Journey
One of my most distinct memories of a time like this happened when I was 18 years old. Something clicked in my creative nature, and I felt the need to make something. It wasn’t just an effort to pass a boring afternoon or to copy someone else’s pattern or idea, but a very real need to be creatively expressive with my own design.
I had no idea what I wanted to make. I just knew I had to get my hands on some kind of creative project.
What I ended up with was a bright yellow poster board covered in a collage of magazine images I clipped, arranged, and glued in place.
Every chosen image inspired me, and that eclectic collection of clippings hung on my bedroom wall for months. I had no idea at the time that I was actually creating a mood board! (Now I wish I had snapped a picture of it as a reminder of that landmark of my creative journey.)
I look back on that experience, which at the time I thought was odd and even a little crazy, and realize it was a very real milestone of a lifelong journey of creative expression.
Struggling with inspiration and ideas is a ditch Creatives end up in at one time or another, but there’s another one that we can veer into as well.
It may seem like a dream to think of having so many ideas bouncing in your head that you have to choose from them – or work fast to see them accomplished.
But when ideas are bouncing, it’s hard and frustrating to try to grab a single one and focus.
It’s like trying to make popcorn without a lid! The ideas fly in all directions and you expend all of your creative energy just trying to grab hold of a single idea to run with – and catch the others that are flying around so they can be useful later.
I can’t describe just a single time I’ve experienced this, because it’s happened a lot. I know well the frustration of limited time, an overload of ideas, and reaching creative exhaustion before I even get a single project underway.
It’s a deflating feeling because it’s just like that fog again. It’s there – right in front of you – but grasping it and molding it in your hands…just won’t happen.
Getting out of the Ditches
As a Creative, I’m sure you can probably easily relate to both of these ditches. If you’ve been exploring your creativity for any amount of time, you’ve surely been in them too.
Both extremes are frustrating, aren’t they?
And because you can find yourself there at most any time – and always unexpectedly – it’s good to have a plan to haul yourself out of the ditch and get back on the road of creative expression!
Lack of Ideas
Coming up with great ideas – from nothing – is tough, but I’ve got a simple solution you can use the next time your well of creative ideas is dry.
Are you familiar with the practice of mind mapping?
You can use this technique to kick-start your creativity. You only have to come up with one single idea and you’ll end up with enough to last you a while – probably longer than you need.
Where to Start
Pinterest is likely the most popular online creative idea destination, wouldn’t you agree?
So let’s hop over, type in a search, and see how this works.
Let’s choose a single idea: DIY
Under the search bar, you get a list of sub-headings in tabs:
- home decor
- for teens
So we have 10 directions we can go, and a mind map would look something like this:
Now it’s time to narrow it down even more. We’re going to click on the home decor tab, and look what we get:
Now you can draw new lines under home decor for:
- on a budget
- for apartments
- dollar store
- living room
- for renters
Maybe some of these ideas don’t appeal to you. That’s okay. You only need to add the ones that do.
Do you get the idea?
The further you narrow your search, the more specific your results will be.
So how does this help generate creative ideas?
The more you wiggle ideas around in your head, the easier it will be to find something that clicks. Pinterest is a storehouse of creative ideas and when you search with deliberate and focused attention, you’re going to find something that will inspire you.
And the best part is that by using this method, you only had to come up with one single idea to generate perhaps hundreds of pinned inspirations!
Something is going to catch your eye, draw your click, and you’ll no longer be without ideas.
So are you just copying someone else’s inspiration?
Here’s something important and encouraging to remember: everything starts with an idea.
Maybe you think some people always pull amazing projects out of their heads, and while that does happen sometimes, here’s something to think about:
Aren’t most projects just tweaks of something else – to one degree or another?
It can sometimes be only a small tweak, or the project may inspire a big leap and you might not even notice where the original inspiration came from, had you not known.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel! Just take an idea, give it a personal tweak – whether big or small – and go with it.
Getting out of the lack of ideas ditch fuels your creative mind and pushes you toward new ideas of your own.
The more you feed your mind with ideas, the easier it will become to generate your own unique projects and get out of your idea vacuum.
So what do you do when you’re in the other ditch and the ideas are fairly exploding in your head?
You’re in idea overload, and with so many inspiring prompts you likely don’t even know where to start.
I’ve been here lots of times and it’s just as frustrating as having no ideas at all because there’s no way you can do everything at once.
It can even create feelings of desperation as you try to harness the wave of inspiration before it’s gone.
Creatives usually live in the “inspiration window” mode – when the window is open and the ideas are flowing, it’s time to get busy. But once that rush of creative flow gets broken, it’s hard to get the same momentum going again. If you’ve experienced it much, you know it doesn’t hang around until you have the luxury of unlimited time.
If you find yourself frequently experiencing idea overload, you need to develop one habit: keep whatever form (or combination of forms) of organization you can use with you!
- Are you a physical paper and pen person? Keep a notebook handy to jot down all those ideas when they come. I always keep a small spiral notebook in my purse for recording ideas when I’m away from home.
- If you’re more of a digital note-keeper: create a special folder in your notes app for organizing your ideas, or download an app specifically for your creative project inspiration record keeping. I love Evernote!
- And if the ideas are popping so quickly that writing or even typing will slow you down: Record your ideas in a voice recording app on your phone.
- Snap pics with the camera on your phone, and add them to a special folder. I’ve done this lots of times when I’m out and about and see something that sparks an idea for a new project. It’s a quick and easy way to record your inspiration, and is especially helpful for more visually-oriented Creatives.
- Use a mood board. I love mood boards! Not only are they helpful for generating ideas, they’re also great for organizing ideas when you have an abundance of them.
With your ideas on paper (or device) and out of your head, you free your brain of the clutter of so many popping ideas and can apply that mental energy to seeing a project to completion instead.
While you’re still in your inspiration window mode, choose a project or two to prioritize and set the lower-priority projects aside for now. They’ll be ready and waiting when you have a new burst of creative energy.
And my all means, get started on that first project! Make your plans, gather your supplies, and start making something amazing.
This may seem like a simplified solution, but it really does work! It clears your mind, gives you room to focus and think creatively on one project, and you don’t have to lose your new collection of ideas.
Does it seem strange that your creativity needs some guidelines – instead of abandoned freedom?
While the expression of your creativity needs unhindered room to move around, the practical side needs a system to beat the challenges that clutter it or keep it stagnant.
A little planning makes all the difference between having the space, time, and mental energy to express it, or being frustrated by the overwhelm or lack of ideas.
Give your creativity the room and freedom it needs to grow by following a few practical, organizational steps. You’ll be amazed by how much difference it makes.