April 9, 2006
Liz published this at 3:21 pm
Stop Not Having Ideas
The first part of fluency with ideas is having them–LOTS of them. There she goes again. What is she talking about? She might have lots. Right now I’d be happy with one.
The trick is get to learn how to stop not having lots of ideas.
That’s not a typo. You can stop not having ideas.
Open the Valve
Ideas are being stimulated constantly in your subconscious so often and at such a rate that, if you let them all in, you wouldn’t be able to pay attention to anything else. You would literally be aware of stimuli that you have no need for, such as the feel of your shoes on your feet or the chair that you’re sitting on. That’s why we come equipped–at no extra charge–with a filtering unit, a valve-like screening device at the base of our brains–the Reticular Activating System (RAS). The RAS allows us to filter out most of that unwanted stimuli. It serves as a closed door allowing only life-skill information into our consciouness. Unfortunately with the door closed we don’t have access to some great ideas.
The good news is that the RAS can be trained. Firemen can make it let through the sound of the fire alarm. You can can use it to access things you forget that are still in your brain– great ideas when you put them together again. Ron Daugherty offers some ways to expand and explore your ability to open the RAS in his article, Understanding the Mind: 5 Keys to a Writer’s Creativity.
With Access Comes Fluency
With a little practice you’ll be able to access more and more ideas. Seriously, believe that they’ll come. Relax and make room for them, and they will. Getting them is just the first step toward fluency with ideas. To follow a language metaphor, the ideas are just your vocabulary. Now you have to be able to use them–pull ideas to match three basic scenarios. Here are ways you can practice to build up your fluency.
- Brainstorming wild lists. When you have a few minutes waiting in traffic, pick an everyday object such as a plate. See whether you can come up with 25 things you might do with that object, silly or otherwise. As blogger, you should be pretty good at this. After all bloggers know a thing or two about making lists. Don’t edit. Be as wild and creative as you can. When you reach 25, try for another 10.
- Freewriting. When you’ve got a few minutes and some paper and pencil, write without stopping about a simple pleasure, such as drinking coffee or running. Explain all of the impacts and outcomes it’s had on your life. Try to write 15 minutes without stopping.
- Problem solving. The next time you or your child has a problem don’t begin to address it until you’ve identified at least five solutions. Not every solution needs to be doable or practical, but all of them need to fix some aspect of the problem, using facts that you know. Allow for an outrageous solution or two. Outrageous solutions often lead to extremely solid ones, once the outrageous solutions have been talked about. Think through what the impact of trying every solution would be and name all of the possible outcomes that could occur if you tried each one.
If you want to be truly future skilled, you’ll do each of these things verbally and in writing too.
Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking the Language of Ideas
The more you practice with your vocabulary of ideas. The more fluent in the language of ideas you will be. That means you’ll not only be good at speaking and writing your own ideas. You’ll also be good listening and reading other folks’ ideas too. You’ll get really quick at telling a great idea from a loser when someone else offers one.
Imagine the time and money a business might save when they know you can tell a solid idea from pipe dream that just sounds really good. AND that you can explain in writing how you know. Now there’s a concept on which you could promote your business and yourself. That would be an added value idea plus.
–ME “Liz” Strauss