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How To Create Ideas

Updated on June 27, 2010

Anyone is able to think creatively. Use the techniques listed below to generate ideas about everything, whether you are remodeling your house, studying for a test, or writing a bestseller. With practice, you will be able to set the stage for creative leaps, jump with style, and land on your feet with brand new ideas.  

brainstorming is powerful
brainstorming is powerful


Brainstorming is a technique for creating plans, finding solutions, and discovering new ideas. When you are stuck on a problem, brainstorming can really help. For example - if you run out of money two days before payday every single week, you can brainstorm ways to make your money last longer. You can brainstorm different ways to pay for your education, and ways to find a job.

The purpose of brainstorming is to generate as many solutions and ideas as possible. Sometimes the craziest ideas, while unworkable themselves, can lead you to new ways to solve problems. Use the following steps to try out the brainstorming process.

  • Focus on a single issue or problem. State your focus as a question. Open-ended questions that start with what, who, how, where, and when make effective focusing questions.
  • Relax. Creativity is enhanced by a stage of relaxed alertness. If you're tense or anxious, try some relaxation techniques.
  • Set a quota or goal for the number of solutions you want to generate. Goals give your subconscious mind something to aim for.
  • Set a time limit. Use a clock to time it exactly. Digital sports watches with built-in stopwatches work really well. Experiment with various lengths of time. Both short and long brainstorms are powerful.
  • Allow all answers. Brainstorming is based on attitudes of permissiveness and patience. Try and accept every idea. If an idea pops in your head, write it down. Quantity not quality, is the goal. Try to avoid making judgments and evaluations during the brainstorming session. If you get stuck, just think of an outlandish idea and write it down. Just one crazy idea can unleash a flood of other, more workable solutions.
  • Brainstorm with others. This is an extremely powerful technique. Brainstorming in groups takes on a life of its own. Assign one member of the group to write down solutions. Feed off others ideas, and try to avoid evaluating or judging anyone's idea during the brainstorm.

After your done brainstorming, evaluate the results. Get rid of any truly nutty ideas, but not before you give them a chance.

a nice piece of artwork on the theme of focus
a nice piece of artwork on the theme of focus

Focus and Let Go

Focusing and letting go are alternating parts of the same process. Intense focus taps into the resources of your conscious mind. Letting go gives your subconscious time to work. When you focus your mind for intense periods of time and then let go for a while, the conscious and self conscious parts of your brain work together.

Focusing your attention means being in the here and now. In order to focus your attention on a project, notice when you pay attention and when you wander. Also, involve all your senses. For example, if you are having a hard time writing a paper on the computer, practice focusing by listening to the sounds as you type. Notice the feel of the keys as you hit them. When you know the sights, sounds, and sensations you associate with being fully in focus, you will be able to repeat the experience and return to your paper more easily.

Be willing to recognize conflict discomfort, and tension. Notice them and accept them instead of fighting against them. Look for the specific thoughts and body sensations that make up the discomfort. Allow them to come fully into your awareness, then let them pass.

You may not be focused all the time. Periods of inspiration may last for just seconds. Be gentle with yourself when you notice that your concentration has lapsed. In fact, that may be time to let go. "Letting go" means not forcing yourself to be creative. Practice focusing for short periods of time at first, and then give yourself a break. Take a nap when you're tired. Thomas Edison took frequent naps. Then the light bulb went on.

take on new projects and think outside the box
take on new projects and think outside the box

Cultivate Creative Serendipity

The word serendipity was established by English author Horace Walepole from the title of an ancient Persian fairy tale, "The three Pinces of serendip. "The princes had a knack for making lucky discoveries. Serendipity is that knack, it involves more than luck. It's the ability to see something valuable when you were not looking for it.

History is full of serendipitous people. Country doctor Edward Jenner noticed "by accident" that milkmaids very rarely got smallpox. The result was his discovery that mild cases of cowpox immunized them. The Penicillin we have today was also discovered "by accident." A Scottish scientist named Alexander Fleming was growing bacteria in a lab petri dish. A spore of Penicillium notatum, a kind of mold, flew in the window and landed in the petri dish, killing the bacteria. Fleming isolated the active ingredient. A couple years later during World War II, it saved thousands of lives. If Fleming wasn't alert of the possibility, the discovery might have never happened.

You can train yourself in the art of serendipity. Keep your eyes open. You may come up with a topic for your paper at the convenience store. Resolve to meet new people. Join a study or discussion group. Read. Go to plays, concerts, art shows, lectures, and movies. Watch tv shows you normally would not watch.

Also expect discoveries. One secret for success is being prepared to recognize "luck" when you see it.

keeping your ideas in files will enable you to remember them
keeping your ideas in files will enable you to remember them

Keep Idea Files

Everybody has ideas. Those who treat their ideas with care are often "creative." They not only recognize ideas but also record them and follow up on them.

One way to keep track of ideas is to write them down on 3 x 5 cards. Make up your own categories and number the cards so you can cross-reference them. For example, if you have an idea about making a new kind of bookshelf, you may file a card under "Remodeling." A second card may also be filed under "Marketable Ideas." On the first card you can write down your ideas, and on the second card you can write "See card #23 - Remodeling."

Don't forget to include in your files powerful quotations, random insights, notes on your reading, collect jokes too.

Keep a journal. Journals don't have to be just for writing your own thoughts and feelings. You can record observations about the world around you, conversations with friends, important or offbeat ideas - anything!

To fuel your creativity, read voraciously, including newspapers and magazines. Keep a clip file of interesting articles. Explore beyond mainstream journalism. There are a lot of low-circulation specialty magazines and online news journals that cover almost any subject you can imagine.

Keep letter-size file folders of important correspondence, news and magazine articles, and other material. You can also create idea files on your computer using word processing, outlining, or database software.

Safeguard your ideas, even if you are pressed for time. Jotting down four or five words is enough to capture the core of an idea. You can write down one quotation in a minute or so. If you carry 3 x 5 cards in your pocket or purse, you can write down ideas while sitting in a waiting room, or standing in line.

Review your files on a regular basis. An amazing thought that came to you in September might be the perfect solution to a problem in January.

collect your data
collect your data

Collect Data And Play With It

Look at all sides of the data you collect. Switch your attention from one aspect to another. Examine every fact, and try to avoid getting stuck on one particular part of a problem. Turn a problem upside down by choosing a solution first and then working backward. Ask other people to look at the data. Get opinions.

Living with a problem invites a solution. Write down data, possible solutions, or a formulation of the problem on a 3 x 5 cards and carry them with you. Look at them before you go to bed. Review them while you are waiting for the bus. Make them a part of your life and think about them often.

Look for the obvious solutions solutions or the obvious "truths" about the problem - then get rid of them. Ask yourself "Well, I know X is true, but if X were not true, what would happen?" Or ask the opposite: If that were true, what would happen next?"

Put unrelated facts next to each other and invent a relationship between them, even if it seems absurd at first. In The Act of Creation, novelist Arthur Koestler says that finding a content in which to combine opposites is the essence of creativity.

Make imaginary pictures with the data. Condense it. Put it in chronological order. Put it in alphabetical order. Put it in random order. Order it from most to least complex. Reverse all of those orders. Look for opposites.

It was said that there are no new ideas - only new ways to combine old ideas. Creativity is the ability to discover those new combinations.

ideas can come to you in your sleep
ideas can come to you in your sleep

Create Ideas While You Sleep

A part of our mind works when we sleep. You have experienced this directly if you have ever fell asleep with a problem on your mind and woke up the next morning with a solution. For some people, the solution appears in a dream or just before falling asleep or waking up.

You can experiment with the process. Ask yourself a question as you are falling asleep. Keep pencil and paper near your bed. The minute you wake up, start writing and see if an answer to your question emerges.

Many people have awoke from a dream with a great idea, only to fall asleep and forget it. To capture your your ideas, keep a notebook by your bed all the time. Put the notebook where you can easily find it.

There is a story about how Benjamin Franklin used this suggestion. Late in the evenings as he would get drowsy, , he would sit in his rocking chair with a rock in his hand and a metal bucket on the floor beneath the rock. The minute he fell asleep, the rock would fall from his hand and into the bucket, making a loud noise that woke him up. Having placed a pen and paper nearby, he immediately wrote down what he was thinking. Experience taught him that his thoughts at this time were often insightful and creative.

there are many benefits of keeping a journal for your ideas and solutions
there are many benefits of keeping a journal for your ideas and solutions

Refine Ideas And Follow Through

Many of us ignore this part of the creative process. How many moneymaking schemes have we had that we never pursued? How many good ideas have we had for short stories that we never wrote? How many times have we said to ourselves, "You know, what they should do is attach two handles to one of those things, paint it orange, and sell it to police departments. They would make a fortune." And we never realize that we are "they".

Genius resides in the follow-through - the application of perspiration to inspiration. A powerful tool you can use to follow through is the Discovery and Intention journal entry system. First write your idea down, then write down what you intend to do with it.

Another way to refine an idea is to simplify it. If that doesn't work, mess it up. Make it more complex.

Finally, keep a separate file in your ideas folder for your own inspirations. Return to it regularly to see if there is anything that you can use. Today's term paper could be the next year's A in speech class.

Create Success Techniques

Use creative thinking techniques to go beyond and create your own ways to succeed. Read other books on success, interview successful people, reflect on any of your current behaviors that help you do well. Change any habits that don't serve you.

If you have created a study group, set aside some time to talk about ways you can succeed. Challenge each other to practice your powers of invention. Test any new strategies you create and report to the group how well they are working for you.

Have Trust In The Process

Learn to trust the creative process - even when no answers are in sight. We are often reluctant to take a look at problems if you see no immediate solutions. You have to trust that a solution will show up. Being frustrated, and having the feeling of being stuck are often signals that a solution is imminent.

Once in a while solutions break through in a giant AAAAH! More often they come in a series of little aaaahs. Beware of what your aaahs look,sound, and feel like. That sets the stage for even more flights of creative thinking.


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    • Alladream74 profile image

      Victor Mavedzenge 

      7 years ago from Oakland, California

      Well written and useful hub. A good point to start if one is in a bind or simply wants to generate ideas. Thanks


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