Top Nav

Broken Light

How to get great ideas in two simple steps

Ideas, ideas everywhere and not a thought to think.

Lately, it seems like everyone’s talking about having too many ideas and not enough time to implement all of them. Some say that creativity and innovation are having a revival. Maybe you’re feeling like you weren’t invited to this party.

What if you’re having the opposite problem?

If you’re feeling stuck, then all of this incessant “wah-wah-i-have-too-many-ideas” blathering on and on can be downright nauseating.

It’s like forcing a hungry person to watch the Food Network for hours on end. Or being penniless when all of your friends are going on beach vacations.

Feel free to insert a well-deserved grumble here and add an eye roll for good measure.

Now that you’re done whining, let’s move forward.

Two steps to get your ideas flowing freely

This simple, 2-step solution will help you get rid of the brain blockage, past the stuck point and get the ideas flowing freely once again.

What exactly is the blockage?

It could be a whole combination of things. Some of the most common are:

  • Playing to expectations
  • Thinking in straight lines
  • Not peeking out of the box
  • Being too literal
  • Feeling pressure to perform
  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of looking silly
  • Dare I say, conformity

One more big one. Not knowing what to do with an idea once you have one is also a huge mental block that can keep you stuck. Don’t worry though, I’ve got ya covered. Read here , here, here and here.

Whatever your blockage is, here’s a simple method to get past it.

The super simple 2-step Solution

Gather your supplies

Index cards, sharpie or a good pen, blank wall, a timer (kitchen timer or the one on your phone), quiet, some time, an open mind.

Set the scene

Turn off the phone and computer. Put a do not disturb sign on the door. Send the spouse and kids to a movie or the grocery store with a long list or put them in front of a new movie. Make the arrangements for about an hour or two of quiet, alone time.

Don’t laugh. I’m serious. Figure it out. Do it at 1am if you have to.

Grab your stack of index cards and sharpie.

Sit down in front of the blank wall. Don’t skip this detail and do this on the couch. You can move a chair to look at the empty wall. Or, you can do what I do and just sit on the floor in the hallway. Whatever works for you.

If music helps you escape without being distracting, put in some ear buds and get comfy. If you tend to want to sing along or silence just works better for you, that’s great too.

Just sit there. Look at the wall. Relax.

This isn’t meditation. It’s brainstorming.

Don’t stare at the wall for hours or even minutes. A few seconds will do. Just relax and clear your head.

Important: Let go. When you’re clearing your head, don’t allow yourself to instinctively refill it with all kinds of unnecessary pressure. It’s easy to catch yourself thinking, “Okay, this is it. Come up with something great. Now. Or else.” …or something along those lines. Don’t do that to yourself. Just let go.

Step One

The brain dump

On your index cards, write answers for the prompts below.  Here are the guidelines:

  1.  Write one answer on each card.
  2. Write as many answers as you can for each prompt in 10 minutes. If you hit a lull, just keep writing. Anything. Even nonsense. Write it down. At first, cards will fly fast. Then they’ll come more slowly. That’s okay. Keep going.
  3. Then reset the timer and do it again for the next question. Sometimes it helps to reward yourself with some chocolate or a sip of wine between rounds.
  4. Don’t pre-judge or disregard any of your answers. Write down everything.
  5. When you finish writing on a card, toss it on the ground and start another. I like to throw them at the wall.  Do not try to keep it neat or organized. That futzing around will distract your brain.
  6. Repeat. (Optional)

The Prompts

  • What do you enjoy doing?
  • Who do you love to spend time with?
  • What is wrong with the world?
  • What do you like to read about?
  • When do people come to you for advice?
  • Which conversations tend to get you up on a soapbox?

Step Two

Connecting the Dots

For best results, don’t do this on the same day as Step 1. Stack up your cards, put a rubber band on them and go about your day.

Come back for Step Two the next day or even a few days later.

You want some of your answers to surprise you.

That won’t happen if the brainstorming is too fresh.

When you’re ready, spread out your cards so you can see all of them. Do this on the table or on the floor. Just don’t tape them to anything, because you’re going to be moving them around.

Study them and start creating pairs or groups of cards you think work together. For example, you might group one card that says “cooking” with another card says “people don’t know basic life skills” and another card says “teenagers.” Oooh, that’s intriguing.

Create a few pairs or groupings and then….this is crucial:

Walk Away

Leave the cards where they are. Glance at them, play with them, make other groupings or rearrange things as you walk by them throughout the day. (You can even do this for a few days if you want to.) Don’t spend hours sitting in front of them trying to force a connection. You’ll fall into the same blockage patterns.

Think about the groupings you’ve made while you do other things. Let the connections fully form in your mind.

At the end of the day(s), tape together your favorite groups and put them on the wall or bulletin board or fridge. Some place where you’ll see them 100x a day.

These are the seeds of your next projects.

Let the ideas simmer, judgement-free, for a few days or weeks before you start trying to formulate a plan. You’ll get more clarity that way.

When you’re ready to flesh out your ideas, you can go hereherehere and  here for help getting started on those next steps.

Remember to stack up the rest of your cards and put them somewhere safe. Repeat Step 2 (or repeat the entire Brain-Oh Solution) whenever you’re feeling blocked.

Please let me know how this solution helps you either in the comments below or by sending me an email.

, , , , , , ,


  1. Roving Robin Report – First Half August, 2011 - August 8, 2011

    […] Laura White-Ritchie gives us a lovely brain-clearing, idea-freeing post with “How to get great ideas in two simple steps“. […]

Leave a Reply