Generating new ideas is one of the most important things in my life. I need to create to grow as a person and hopefully have a significant impact on the world. But the creative process is often really hard. It’s essential to get new ideas on paper, but it’s difficult to force the ideas out of my head onto the page.
I read a blog some time ago by Seth Godin called “Talker’s Block.” The point of the blog is that unlike writer’s block which tortures almost everyone, few people get “talker’s block.” If we have something to say on a subject we can usually get it out of our mouths in a coherent way; we don’t get stuck like we do in front of a computer or holding a pen to paper. Most people are great at talking because they do it constantly, as opposed to writing, which they practice less often.
One of these Today’s Machining World blogs unfortunately often takes me three to four hours to write. I know it’s possible to improve my writing speed, and I know there are tons of interesting ideas my brain could spit out. I just need to practice.
For the last month every weekday morning before leaving for work I have been devoting 15 minutes to creative writing. Doing it in the morning is crucial. Studies show that the first few hours of the day the brain is at its most powerful and creative. I’m not necessarily writing a screenplay or a blog in these sessions. I’m writing down miscellaneous ideas. I turn on my iPhone’s timer with a firm limit of 15 minutes. The time limit is a positive because too much time to think can make me second guess my ideas—they will disintegrate before they reach the page. Also, come on—it’s 15 minutes. We waste so much time during the day on stupid stuff, there is no excuse for not giving up 15 minutes for what could be the most interesting and important activity you do that day.
I try to write down 10 ideas in a session. Maybe they are new ideas or maybe they are ideas fleshing out previous ideas I have already come up with. My ideas can be about anything—inventions, new types of businesses, movie ideas, scientific experiments. Sometimes I think of ideas on how to improve Graff-Pinkert or Today’s Machining World.
One powerful exercise I use to inspire ideas when I am having trouble is to try to think of 10 STUPID ideas. Sometimes the stupid ideas turn out to be the best because they are the most original and interesting. Sometimes by trying to think of a stupid idea my brain’s resistance reflex causes it to come up with “not-stupid” ideas. Also, if you can actually think of 10 stupid ideas, likely a few of them will be funny. That has value.
If still nothing is coming to me, I just allow whatever is on my mind to trickle out onto the paper, and I get a nice stream of consciousness diary entry.
I’ve listed a few of my favorite morning ideas below. Some may be stupid, and some I’m convinced are brilliant. But at least they are down on paper for the world to see.
1. A Website to help average people understand the laws of the U.S. government in a straightforward way.
2. A podcast in which Lloyd and I interview machining company owners or managers.
3. An experiment to see if my political views would change by reading only Breitbart News for an entire week (no other types of fake news).
4. One of my favorites: A baseball managing strategy for substituting bullpen pitchers. It consists of the following. A pitcher throws to a batter and gets two strikes, but then in the middle of the at-bat the manager brings in a new pitcher with a totally different throwing style from the previous one. Perhaps he substitutes a righty for a lefty or subs for a flame thrower with a guy who tops out at 80. It would totally knock the batter off balance! I’ve only seen a mid at-bat substitution because of an injury or if the pitcher is in trouble. Managers need to think outside of the old baseball code. I think this idea could change the world.
Question 1: What is your stupid or brilliant idea today?
Question 2: What is the stupidest or most brilliant invention you’ve ever seen?