Generating Ideas

24May11

I’ve been working between 13and 18 hours a day for the last three weeks, so my brain has been shot for a while, and I hit a bit of a wall coming up with ideas for this week’s post. So, I turned to my colleagues. Matt Rome (mattrome.com, @mrMrome) suggested talking about generating ideas, as it seemed relevant. And it is. This post is in no way meant to be a definitive bible on coming up with ideas, it is simply how I do it.

I generally have four places that I draw my ideas from: people I know, other media, news, and history. Some of the biggest influences we can have in our life (creatively or otherwise) are our family, friends, and colleagues. I know that I am my most creative when I’m working near others. It doesn’t even have to be the same project. I just know that I feed off other peoples’ energy, like a leech. Yes, I know I just called myself a leech. But I am. There have been times when I’ve been stuck on something, taken a break to work on other peoples’ projects, and gotten that creative spark I needed. Other people are also great to just bounce ideas off of. That’s what I did with this post. I was stuck. So I turned to my friends and colleagues, and got an awesome idea for a post.

Getting inspiration from watching/ reading/ listening to other sources is pretty much a given. But it needs to be said. Watching videos that other people create gives me both something to strive for (or to beat) and gives me hints on how I should do it. There’s a reason why film school requires you to watch films. It doesn’t have to just be the classics either. I would say that 90% of the videos I watch for inspiration are from DSLR shooters.

The other two places (news and history) are sort of the exact opposites, but they are both important for both creativity, and just being a member of society. Staying relevant means watching news. I’ve been in situations where I’ve needed to film in a piece of a script, have had no clue what would work, see something on the news, and have an instant fix. On the flip side of that is history. And personally, history is the biggest influence to my creativity, even if I’m not working on something historically based. The cliché saying is that “those who do not learn from the past are bound to repeat it.” When it comes to creativity, I believe it’s more “those who do learn from the past, are able to repeat it.” Looking back through time allows me to get more perspective on what it is I’m creating, and to make it better.

So, when I’m short on ideas, a scour my resources and come up with something. Even if they aren’t 100% amazing ideas, just generating ideas gets me going. Once I have a handful to start with, I can usually keep them coming. Then I choose one I like and refine it. Refine it some more. Make another draft. And eventually I’ll come up with something I like.

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