March is National Ideas Month. Hey, whose bright idea was that?
Here’s an intriguing idea from New York Times best-selling author and writing coach Michael Levin: “Creativity is a muscle; use it or lose it.”
Levin, whose new Books Are My Babies YouTube channel (www.BooksAreMyBabies.com) offers 160-plus free tutorials for writers, says anyone can grow their creativity, just like any other muscle.
“I define creativity as ‘the ability to develop great ideas while under pressure,’ ” he says. “Pressure creates diamonds, so why shouldn’t it also create great ideas?”
But sometimes, pressure paralyzes creativity. “I’ve experienced it when writing under deadline pressure and writing under the pressure of my own high expectations,” Levin says. “Over time, I’ve developed several tricks to stimulate my creative muscle and help me come up with great ideas for whatever challenge I face – whether it’s writing or figuring out how to arrange a busy family weekend schedule so that everyone’s needs are met.”
Here are four of Levin’s no-fail tips for generating creative ideas under pressure:
1. Ask yourself, “What’s the most dangerous, expensive and illegal way to solve this problem?” We usually take the same approach to solving problems every time with the resources we have at hand. “This doesn’t exactly translate into breathtaking creativity,” Levin says. So imagine that you have no limits — legal, moral, financial, whatever. You can do literally anything to solve the problem. The way-out ideas you develop may not be practical, but they’ll lead you to new ways of thinking about your problem. And then you can find a non-life-threatening, legal way to solve it!
2. Hide. We live in a world of constant, thin-sliced demands. Unanswered texts and emails. People waiting for you to say something, do something, read something, decide something. Run and hide. Lock yourself in your car or hunker down in a bathroom stall. Slow down and get your brain back.
It’s all but impossible for your creative brain to operate when you’re responding to endless external stimuli. The best ideas often come when you run from your responsibilities.