To Find Inspiration, Dip a SOLO® Cup in the Ocean
And 3 Other Ways to Cultivate Your Creativity and Generate More Ideas
Returning to writing every day has reminded me of how difficult it can be to come up with fresh ideas that I’m inspired to explore. In my struggle against this resistance, I’ve discovered 4 shifts that arm me with creative confidence.
Dip a SOLO® Cup in the Ocean
Ever feel like there are only so many good ideas? Like inspiration is a limited resource? I’ll confess that, at times, an amazing article that I read will not only wow me, but make me go wah as I mourn over the loss of one more idea taken from our limited collective stores.
Although my experience is real, this is not the way things really are, or at least the way they have to be. That reaction comes from my scarcity mindset, created from my fear and forecasting nothing but finiteness all over my future.
The good news is that just as our minds can paint that picture, we can also cover the canvas with a thick layer of white acrylic and start over. For creative confidence, mindset is everything. So, let’s change it.
You’ll need to start with your present mindset. How do you view these things? Are creative ideas and inspiration found in abundance? Or are they a limited resource? Are they a controlled substance or are they an invasive species?
That reaction comes from my scarcity mindset, created from my fear and forecasting nothing but finiteness all over my future.
When it comes to inspiration and good ideas, we create the reality that will be realized when we sit down to do our work. So, if you’re like me and are prone to feelings of scarcity, you’ll need a new way of thinking about this — a new image that, over time, will tell your mind a different story.
So, to get your next great idea and find inspiration, just dip a SOLO cup in the ocean of inspiration and ideas. There are more great ideas out there than you will ever have the time to build, communicate, or create. Inspiration and ideas are like the ocean. It’s not a scarce resource, and good ideas are easy to find. It’s all about our mindset.
This might seem simple, but it’s the foundational shift of these four. No hack will help you if your mindset is one of creative scarcity. You must believe that you can do this.
So, keep calm and carry… your SOLO® cup.
Trap Yourself in a Box
Some people are afraid of the dark, while some fear the bright white screen. Fear of the blank page is a real thing. It can be debilitating and make us feel stuck. The stuckness is caused by the extreme broadness of possibilities that the blank page represents. It provides no framework for forward motion, no diving board from which to jump off from. The flashing cursor only adds stress to our situation, taunting us with our irritated inaction.
To break the power of the blank page, you’ll need to add limits and constraints to it. You’ll need to ration your resources and limit your possibilities. In other words, trap yourself in a box.
That’s right. What you need is not freedom. Constraint creates the context for creativity. Giving yourself endless hours to write your post will not necessarily make it better. You’ll probably spend the majority fighting fear and frustration.
An unknown author was tasked with the seemingly impossible task of writing a story that could emotionally move a reader… in just six words. She wrote: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” ¹
Even when there aren’t constraints naturally present, you can manufacture them by limiting the time you can spend on a project, limiting the colour choices you can use, or limiting the space with which you have to work. This goes beyond what we traditionally understand as creative expression. It’s true and useful in business, relationships, and anything that requires decisions to be made or things to be done.
So, if you’re scared and stuck, you probably have too many options. Instead, add constraints and trap yourself in a box. The need to escape from the box will focus the creation of new and creative ideas for getting out with whatever you have.
Stop Trying and Go Walk the Dog
When you’re stuck, more ideas won’t come from feeling frustrated or staring harder. When you have nothing to say, it’s best you stop writing. The more time you spend bashing your head against the computer screen, the less time you’re going to want to spend in front of it in the long run. Instead, withdraw from your writing, put down your paintbrush, and step away from your saxophone.
The more time you spend bashing your head against the computer screen, the less time you’re going to want to spend in front of it in the long run.
Letting go is one of the most powerful ways to increase your creativity and generate new ideas. Like a scratched CD that keeps skipping in the same spot, our brains easily gets stuck in one line of thinking. Fighting it won’t help. The best thing to do in that situation is to take the CD out, clean it, and then try again. Waiting for it to stop skipping often won’t work. You need to shift the situation and call what you’re doing quits. You need to stop trying. You need to walk the dog.
Withdraw from your writing, put down your paintbrush, and step away from your saxophone.
Getting away from the source of your frustration and the time spent walking the dog will open up new pathways for your mind to explore. Maybe you don’t have a dog though… That’s okay. Over many years, much of mankind has walked without its best friend. What’s important is that you move, and preferably outdoors. Not sure? This study clearly showed that walking “opens up the free flow of ideas”.²
So walk the dog, if not your house (and work) will be full of (metaphorical)…
Give Yourself 10x More Work
In 2017, I published articles for 125 (almost) consecutive days. That’s many moments of inspiration and a lot of different ideas. When I would have the mindset that I needed to wake up, sit down, and come up with one idea, I would often freeze. Somewhat of a perfectionist, coming up with THE ONE IDEA creates too much pressure for me. It’s as if my mind is pre-filtering my thoughts, sorting out the bad ideas before I even have them, often leaving me with nothing to work with.
It’s as if my mind is pre-filtering my thoughts, sorting out the bad ideas before I even have them, often leaving me with nothing to work with.
With creativity and idea generation, it’s important to take the pressure off. To do this, give yourself 10x more work. Instead of asking yourself to come up with your next great idea for a painting, try coming up with ten. Sure, many of them will not be great ideas, and you may never end up painting them, but some will and others might lead to other new ideas. Within those ten, there’s always between one and three ideas that make their way into my writing. It’s amazing how easy it is to come up with ten ideas in 2–3 minutes after you’ve failed at coming up with THAT ONE IDEA in 20–30.
Instead of asking yourself to come up with your next great idea for a painting, try coming up with ten.
You’ll find that your first idea comes much faster when it’s not also supposed to be your last. So, when you’re stuck needing one idea, come up with ten instead.
Go forth and have fun!
Resistance is all around and making it difficult to feel inspired and generate ideas, but you can overcome it and cultivate your creativity by dipping a SOLO® cup in the ocean, trapping yourself in a box, walking the dog, and giving yourself 10x more work.
Remember: inspiration and ideas are everywhere and just as available to you as to anyone else. So go forth and have fun!
That’s day 14 of my 30-day writing project. I hope you’re safe and well.
P.S. Let me know what you do to increase your creativity or come up with new ideas!
P.S.S. Here are some footnotes: