But there are ways to tip the odds in your favor.
Ideas can come easily, or not at all. Inspiration can be completely boundless, or utterly elusive. Creativity can never be consistent. Either brilliance comes or it doesn’t. And it usually happens quickly if at all.
The problem with tips about the creative process is that everyone’s perfect formula for optimal output is different. But the best explanation I’ve heard for how ideas work is this one from David Lynch:
There are limits to your control over your own creativity, but there are ways to push those limits. Here are some of my methods.
Seek Opinions, Listen Skeptically
You can come up with a great idea but not realize it. It might seem like the most obvious thing to you. To someone else, it could be totally original and unexpected. More often, you’ll think something is great and it completely underwhelms everybody else. This is why having a team or group of trusted confidants can come in handy. Find people who will be honest with you, and get their opinion. But don’t take for granted the possibility that their opinions could be completely idiosyncratic and not representative of the larger consensus that will greet your idea. You don’t have to take everyone’s advice.
Go to Museums
I work at an Austin ad agency, so I also watch what campaigns are making waves around the world today. I’m a writer, so reading books is the most direct way to stay sharp. But the book cover is just as likely to fuel inspiration as the words inside. My favorite source of new ideas is in looking at old things, in every medium. Ancient artifacts, contemporary art, and historical movements all speak to aspects of the human condition. That’s why you should go to museums.
Don’t Live at Your Desk
A blank Google Doc isn’t always the best place to start your next masterpiece. I like to walk through the office or around Austin and take notes on my phone when the ideas come to me. Multitasking is usually a terrible idea, but it takes up zero mental capacity to go for a walk, and there are fewer distractions on the street than on your computer.
Hire Someone Else
The whole purpose of a marketing consulting firm or advertising agency is to get a team with a different set of skills and a fresh perspective. If you hire Rock Candy Media, your odds will be very high that you’ll like what you get.