This is a question that comes up over and over again. Sometimes it’s very obvious to me where I got an idea and at other times I struggle to figure out how it came to me. I’m sure this is familiar to anyone in a creative field.
Of one thing I’m sure, and that is that I will never run out of ideas. How do I know? Well, I haven’t run out yet in my six decades of life, so I’m pretty sure the pattern is set.
So the next question would be, how do I ensure a continuous flow of ideas? Here is a checklist in no particular order that I believe anyone can follow in order to generate lots of ideas.
1. Allow a generous amount of time to daydream.
Yup, I spend a considerable amount of time just staring into space in a catatonic state (at least that is probably the appearance of it to an outsider). What’s really happening is my mind is working behind the scenes. I let my mind go. I ask questions such as “what if?” I think about colour, nature, art materials, other artists’ work, my latest museum visit—whatever my mind finds interesting. These “dream-times” are like gold for generating “spontaneous” thoughts that are often translated into artwork, maybe immediately, maybe later, much later.
2. Learn something new.
The brain loves making new synapsis. Feed it. You can never fill it up. I love learning new stuff. It could be something simple like learning a new art technique or experimenting with new media, or something long-term and complicated like learning a new language. I’ve done both. Right now I’m learning to play the piano again after a hiatus since childhood. With my new series, “Of Women,” I’m learning about figure drawing all over again, not having done much of it since art school. You never know where learning new stuff will take you.
3. Stay healthy.
I understand that for some people who are health-challenged in various ways, this is difficult. But speaking generally, a healthy body and mind finds it easier to keep the brain working well. Creativity suffers if you don’t get enough sleep. The brain does not work well when sleep-deprived, and you’re wasting all those good dreaming hours, too! Further to this, eat well, not junk. A well-nourished body is a happy body and this is reflected in brain health. OK, lecture over!
4. Do the work.
As artists, we’re not always “inspired” every day. This doesn’t matter. Just get into the studio and do something, anything. The act of action often triggers ideas where you least expected them. When I was a graphic designer, there was no such thing as not going to work one day because I didn’t feel creative. I went anyway and worked at it. Same thing now that I’m a fine artist. I keep a schedule and make sure I have painting time every week day.
5. Remain open to new ideas.
Don’t dismiss that dumb idea because it’s too dumb or insignificant. Even if you can’t use it now, file it away. It can cogitate subconsciously and perhaps leap-frog into something else. Keep a list of ideas somewhere handy and jot them down or make a sketch. Review from time to time.
6. Look at lots of interesting things.
I love to troll the Internet looking at other artists’ work. I find it inspirational and yes, sometimes intimidating. So much beautiful art out there! But I do get ideas! Never, ever copy! Inspiration is the keyword. I also try to visit museums and art galleries regularly. I personally get a lot of my inspiration from nature. Take pictures or store those thoughts in your memory files, to pop out unexpectedly…
Or not so unexpectedly. If you do even a few of the above, you’re sure to start having more ideas than you can possibly use. I realized after I wrote this post that I discussed this same idea in my first blog post back in March 2014, “On Inspiration and Creativity and 6 Ways to Never Run Out of Ideas.”
I’m sure there are more ideas about how to get ideas. What are some of your strategies?