“Perfection is the satin-lined casket of creativity and originality.” – Augusten Burroughs
One of the biggest threats to concept generation is the initial battle we face with our own inner critic. The internal perfectionist leaps nine steps ahead of an emerging thought and has the power to nix it before it has had the chance to develop into something potentially useful. The internal perfectionist is a skilled and necessary editor—but a terrible instigator. Great ideas aren’t always recognizable in the earliest stages and focusing prematurely on every perceived flaw is only effective at keeping a screen nice and blank.
The birth of a great idea is often romanticized, but truthfully the process is a mixture of pure magic AND orderly tedium. Everyone’s methods are different, but from a writing standpoint I can say that many look something like this (click to enlarge):
The order of these events may be completely jumbled and may even start with a breakthrough that leads you to explore nine other ideas, only to return to the original one. The fun thing about breakthroughs is that they will always feel magical, even if they’ve taken a great deal of time and old-fashioned struggle. We might not be able to force the magic of a breakthrough, but we can battle the lack of focus and overstimulation that block creativity.
To illustrate the impact of atmosphere on openness—we polled around the office to find out where and when we get our ideas. Here are the results:
Where / when do you generate the most ideas?
One on One conversations
On the water
There is one response in particular that needs to be singled out and that is ‘laying down to sleep’. EVERY staff member we polled cited the moment when their head hits the pillow as a particularly fruitful time for ideas. As with all of the responses, the combination of freedom from distractions and simple time for reflection is irresistible to a brain that has been subconsciously processing the external world all day.
Ultimately ideas can’t be born if you never have the chance to hear them. You might need to put down your phone.
(If you’re interested in reading more about how the brain tangibly benefits from time to reflect—this article is a great start. www.scientificamerican.com/article/mental-downtime)