What happens when we are working on a project and we get stuck? Or how Susan Pope phrases it in her blog: "How do you train ideas to come when they're called?"


Is it as simple as calling a dog? Not quite. But you can train your brain. All it involves is a little bit of process and discipline.

Here's how you prep your idea factory:

Put the phone away. Know your distractions and get rid of them. No excuses.

Fresh air is nature's prozac. You are not going to get really good ideas by just sitting and thinking really hard. You will do the opposite and work yourself up into a state of anxiety. Go watch people, change up the scenery, take a walk. 

Feed your soul. Know what inspires you. For me, they are certain people (usually writers because they are good at articulating new thoughts or old thoughts in new ways). Podcasts--especially when I'm driving because I'm a captive audience and all I can do is listen. Certain websites and magazines. But be careful, you can also get easily distracted. Reading The New York Times Sunday paper is a ritual I have been doing most of my life. It is full of great ideas presented elegantly. Without fail, I get new ideas every time I read.

Do not stare at a blank white piece of paper or computer screen. Your brain will register blankness, you'll intimidate yourself and your idea factory will shut down. Relax, think, start taking notes--pen on paper is preferable. Why? it's faster and more visceral. You don't have to use the part of your brain that has to remember where the keys are. You already know how to make the letters. If you are out and about (often the case) and don't have pen and paper,  use your notes app on your phone if you must. 

Let it percolate. Typically, we have a good idea but it's small and we're not sure. Don't give up. Meditate. Go to the gym. Take a shower. Seriously, my best ideas come when I'm either in the shower, driving my car or about to fall asleep. That's because my brain is relaxed. Do not confuse this stage with the home stretch is which all about finishing the idea. (see earlier post)