Creative Consultant Deej Johnson on inspiring ideas with the New to You technique
So said winner of the Nobel Prize in literature, Andre Gide… Does that mean you should literally go sailing in order to be more creative?! Actually, it depends! Do you go sailing often?! Doing new things can be a stimulating and fun way of becoming habitually creative. Why? Because finding new perspectives is easier when you continually experience new sensations. Here are some of the ways you can feed your creative mind…
Do Ordinary Things Differently
Have you ever cut off the ends of an orange, made a slit down to the core on one side, then let it unroll? No, of course not; no reason you would! Except that it’s a fantastically-fast, mess-free and simple way to get to the fruitiness!
Even acts as mundane as eating an orange can spark new thoughts when you look at them differently. Indeed, almost any object you pick up can be subject to a creative exercise. Make a habit of playing around with objects and activities whenever you can.
Look Deeper at Something that Already Interests You
For illustrations sake, let’s imagine you have an interest in interior design. You’ll almost certainly awaken new thoughts by drilling more deeply into one aspect of it. You might ask how paint is actually made, for example, or why Feng Shui is supposed to work. You might ask yourself why a colour wheel works, or which cardinal rules of design you could break. Digging deeper helps you see things ‘inside-out’.
Look at Something that Doesn’t Interest You
A few years ago, a trailer for a Channel 4 documentary promised to explore an escape attempt from Colditz. It turns out that – in a tiny attic above the prison chapel – 14 soldiers secretly built a two-man glider! Compelling though that may sound, much of the program’s content seemed to appear in that trailer. To me, it didn’t look particularly interesting…
I often find that making time to explore things that don’t interest me is hugely inspiring! This particular documentary explains the jaw-dropping creativity of several prisoners during various escapes. The fact that it initially seemed not to be interesting is the only reason I tuned in.
If all this sounds effortful in scale, downsizing your creative exploration is easy. You could read a book, watch a TV show or listen to music with which you wouldn’t normally bother… Equally, go to a new restaurant, cinema screening – anything to break up your routine.
I’ve also found walking round some shops promotes stimulating ideas… Aquatic stores, electronics shops, Spitalfields market, model shops, retro outlets, theatrical chandlers, prop. warehouses, craft stores… They all offer a certain X-factor for stimulating thought.
Speak to New People
Many of us shrink at the very idea of this. It’s a real challenge for the less outgoing – but why do it as a creative act? It’s because new people feel, know and believe different things! They have different experiences, disciplines and training. You can ask a perfect stranger for a view on almost anything and get a new perspective. Think about that and consider how many people you don’t know. There aren’t many techniques that offer billions of jumping off points!
Obviously, the internet offers near-limitless opinions, thoughts and images. In fact, the near infinite amount of online material can be a bit of a drawback! When you set to spark new ideas, you just don’t know where to start.
Personally, though, I often start at stumbleupon.com. It describes itself as “A giant collection of the best pages on the internet”. The site asks you to register, then enter your interests. The site then suggests many websites, photos and videos for you to try! Give it a go. If you find it helpful, create two accounts. Use one for your real interests, and one for things that mean almost nothing to you. I also look at quora.com and Instagram with the same mindset.
Go to a Museum
Art, science, toys, design, fashion, natural history, war. Any number of inspirations sit in the cabinets and hang on the walls of museums. And if you look beyond the mainstream, you’ll find some outright bizarre collections… There are museums for pencils, lawnmowers, cuckoo clocks, conjuring, witchcraft, teapots, dog collars… All sorts of things. Investigate ‘people museums’, too. Everyone from Churchill and Edison to Roald Dahl and Laurel and Hardy have their own.
Visit a Trade Show Outside your Area of Expertise
Almost every week sees the staging of trade and hobby shows of one kind or another. they range so broadly in focus that it beggars belief. For that reason, you can go to one with several approaches:
• Go to one at random
• Choose one that connects to your interests
• Pick one well outside your sphere of interest
• Visit two or three at a time: many shows run just a stone’s throw from one another
Do Something Childlike
“Every child is an artist. The problem is staying an artist when you grow up…” If you know the words of Pablo Picasso as well as the works, you might understand the pedigree of this quote. The line between creativity and play is very thin… If there is a line at all! Trying child-like activities offers great opportunities to see things differently.
Visit Somewhere New
Somewhat overlooked – even by those that use these techniques – is this idea… To wander about a new town, city, etc. The reason it’s not popular is that it can feels time consuming and unproductive. You might consider its place, though: you can probably think of times when you’d be able to do this anyway… Staying away on business, or on holiday; whenever you’re way too early to head to a train station or meeting, say… Just start looking for opportunities to be curious and explore.
Attend a Talk
Speeches and talks are enjoying a great resurgence thanks to the events such as Ted and TedX. On a looser basis, there are also numerous talks, classes and walks in towns and cities up and down the country… They cover a mind-boggling range of subjects. Again, our suggestion would be to look in to a subject that’s new to you. Take a look at funzing.com to get an idea of what’s out there.
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