I’m not great at ideation. I can follow directions and meet expectations, but when I’m asked to pitch a few ideas or brainstorm on my own, I start the journey by stumbling over my low self-esteem.
What if my ideas aren’t good enough? Don’t I need, like, more…practice?
Truth is, we’ve all got great ideas inside of us. What’s even truer is that the definition of “great” is pretty subjective. So, the best way to approach ideation is to simply let it happen.
As Sylvia Plath said it best, “The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”
Here’s some of my best advice for ideation and brainstorming:
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- Let your ideas flooooow. Just do it. Don’t self-edit or critique, and don’t fear the ridiculous. Every idea, good or bad, should be transcribed. When I’m stuck, I turn my computer’s brightness all the way down so that I can’t get distracted visually.
- Don’t brainstorm while writing (or working). Fun fact: I keep a notebook in my car, purse, and bathroom (…yep). I’ve got so many reminders on my phone that Siri will probably kill me next time I say, “Siri, remind me to write about…” My best brainstorming happens while driving, walking, showering…any moments that let my brain (and eyes) rest and let ideas flow.
- Don’t research if the idea’s out there/how well it’s been done/who did it/etc. Yeah, that’s just going to lead down a black hole of inspiration turned intimidation. Doing research and learning from others is great, but I believe brainstorming should be a completely closed-off process. Pretend the world doesn’t exist when coming up with new ideas.
- If you’re stuck, take a break; don’t push harder. (Unless you have a deadline, then, well, sorry.) If you do have a few hours or days, take a break from your project for a bit. Take a walk, go on a drive, read a book…the ideas will come back, I promise. (Read #2)
- Freakin’ believe in your ideas. If you think an idea is great and original and will knock your client’s socks off, then roll with it. Even if you’ve done #3 (I told you not to…), be confident in your ideas. Don’t nix something because it’s been “taken” or because you’re unsure of what your client will say.
- Know your "why". If your idea is for you (blog name, product title, etc.), know the why behind it. Give your idea substance and a story. If your idea is for a client, be prepared to tell them how you stumbled upon a great blog column topic or landing page call-to-action. They’ll appreciate the connection and thought-process that went into their work.
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These are just a few ways that I get myself started with and unstuck within the ideation process. If you’ve got any other great tips for brainstorming, please share!