Creating, editing and judging

2019-04-18

Recently someone told me that they admired my ability to consider and propose new ideas. I explained that it doesn’t come naturally to me. It’s a side effect of something I deliberately practiced, and I’m still feeling the benefits.

I got this method from James Altucher - he talks about it here. It improved my life in surprising ways. I would sit down daily and write down ten ideas. Go ahead and pick any theme for the ideas because it doesn’t matter what they’re about. They don’t have to be good ideas, or even realistic ideas. Let your creativity run wild.

Doing this is much harder than it sounds like it will be. When I started, I struggled to get to a list of two. If you can’t let yourself have bad ideas, you will never be able to come up with good ideas.

For example, I might sit down and list ten ways to improve stop lights at traffic intersections. Can you think of any?

Here’s one: maybe we could attach a stoplight to a drone. It could fly out of a nearby enclosure when there are cars coming. It could hover in the middle of the intersection with the light hanging underneath it to direct traffic. That way we wouldn’t need to put up all those expensive and unsightly poles.

There! What a terrible idea. It’s completely impractical. But maybe it’s the seed of a good idea, or maybe there will be a good idea further down the list. You’ll never know if you can’t get the terrible ideas on paper.

If you start judging your creative process, your creative mind will go on strike and refuse to cooperate. This is true in anything that takes creativity. To learn to do it, you have to be able to turn off your censor, and it turns out that’s really hard to do. It takes deliberate practice.

At some point I became so desensitized to the possibility of looking foolish that I stopped feeling scared and I was able to say all of my dumbest ideas out loud. This is basically a superpower. When I’m brainstorming, people barely know how to handle the avalanche of ideas.