A Rant In The Name of Unblocking Creativity & the Relentless Pursuit of Ideation

Somewhere, somehow I lost my writing mojo.

Unsurprisingly this has happened before. It happens when I put out something great.

Write something good, follow it with something great. At some point you have to dip. Where do you got next? I recall the Elizabeth Gilbert Ted Talk.

“Will I ever produce anything better than Eat Pray Love”.

That’s a daunting thought.

You don’t need a blockbuster hit to experience that wall. Any mortal can face blocks.

Would I dare publish a second board game? Could I expect to win another Spiel Des Jahres prize? Who knows! . I think I prefer the pain and uncertainty of jumping domains. It’s something I’ve done many times. I’m learning this about my pain tolerances. I’m working on staying put. Digging deep. Sitting in my anguish. It’s a powerful lesson. Pain and conflict is where growth happens.

I know many people who jump back into the same ideas pool again and again. Familiarity can breed content or deep expertise. You choose. It all depends how you drive the bus.

This is a metaphor-rich post. I’m jumping around. No excuses. Buckle up and enjoy the ride.

I’m perhaps gnawing on too many ideas right now, but I also sense that something big is brewing. A flood burst. A gushing of outcomes and consequences.

Dogs get it. Gnawing is good. You have to suck the marrow out of every idea. Bones always have more to give. Chew 20 times. Lick, polish, spit and grind. This is work people. Creativity is not fancy schmancy dancing. No airy fairies. It heart rendering, limb-ripping blood, sweat and toil. No swerving that harsh reality.

I confess, I’ve written post similar to this before. Somehow that feels weak. In my heart I knows that wrong. This is right. Writing is right. I ask myself where the creativity in revisiting? But it’s actually cathartic, about perfecting an art, working the creative muscle. It both hardens your resolve and softens your heart. It opens you up to the possibility of more.

More exists. It’s there for the taking, but don’t expect it to crumble and deliver all her hidden virtues on first touch. Woo her. She wants to know you care. She wants to know that you know she’s worth it. She wants to know you’ll save her first.

Get to know your rock.

Hitting the same rock many times has impact. Both on you and the rock. Who will win? Many hands or many attempts. Persistence wins. The rock is betting on your weakness. Accumulated force wins. Most objects crumble to persistent pressure. Too often artists & creatives work alone. Yet, there’s power in numbers. A rock weakens under the collaborative force of an army of creative minds. A drop of water can be torture.

One big thing I’ve learned is you can’t over recap or over simplify. “RE” never spoiled anything. Rework, reform, refactor, reverse, repeat, rewind, replay, relive, reinvent. Relief – perhaps not.

My granddad used to say “cREam never spoiled anything”. I finally found what he was trying to say.

When your head is embroiled in an idea you are never it’s best story teller. Asking, listening, watching are much more effective tools.

Step back from the rock. Like Michelangelo with David. Look and listen at and to the problem. Use as many angles (or lenses)  as you can. Let go. Don’t rely on your perceptions and biases.

So today, I’m standing in my square in the metaphoric game board of life.

I sit in my own confusion, chaos and bile. Not moving or squirming or recalling for fear of rejection, failure or lack or will. Holding still is hard. Nothing is hard to embrace. Listening is painfully distracting.

Let me not kid you. This is hard. Listly is hard work. This is challenging. This is my rock. She will break.

Emerging from the noise takes many things – magic & persistence being just two. We live in a world where quality does not rise. Fifty Shades of Grey is all I’m saying. Simplicity rises. Apathy and the status quo have a stranglehold on the world. Choice is eternal. Time and attention are finite.

So sit still. Work it.

When you hold still, magic happens. Clarity and simplicity emerge from chaos. You drop down a level. You become more connected to the idea and the outcome.

Sometimes ideas are sent to torment us. They dance in front of us elusively. Untouchable. Non tangible. Words defy them, or they defy words. Like a dream you can’t quite recall. They are still a sign.

Ideas can stack up like water and logs behind a jam and then suddenly, break free.

Ideas can stagnate, rot and fester.

Ideas are poison a good friend told me recently. Wise words. Thanks Carrie.

It’s so true. Ideas can be poison, but it depends what you do with them.

I like to gather them in Evernote and let them sit. Put them in a room together and let them mingle, breed or kill of the weak. Like the green room on TV. Ideas need to sit before airing. The finest ideas need time to distill and percolate and find their matching friends.

Most startups die of indigestion by consuming too many ideas at once.  There’s a middle ground. You need to throttle your own execution and keep acting distinct from ideation.

I’m an ideas guy and I thrive on ideas. I give, I get, I accumulate, I assemble, I disassemble, I invert, reverse, rephrase and re-contextualize. I listen aggressively. I use every trick in the ideation kit bag.

Too many ideas doesn’t phase me. I’m an idea connector. What kind of connector are you?

I wrote about 4 types of connectors here: Idea, Solution, Risk & People Connectors


An Ideas Connector? > A CREATIVE THINKER

Jan 05, 2012
An Ideas Connector? > A CREATIVE THINKER

That's me. I live in the world of ideas and possibilities. Ideas never arrive fully formed. Acquiring and connecting ideas is a skill set. I work well at forging abstract connections. I'm used to blank looks as I try to explain new ideas. I connect dots where others don't see a pathway. I'm incredibly non-judgemental.

I see possibility everywhere.

Being an idea connector, I connect people when they contribute to the solution. I try to calculate the risk, but that comes second or third. I lead with ideas.

Ideas do not mean execution. Ideas aren’t failure. Failure is failure. Failure is also and more importantly feedback. Feedback is progress. You are one step closer to crushing the rock, finding the password to open the door  and to warming your heart.

Accepting the status quo can be failure. Not processing an idea can be failure. Lack of progress is failure. Stagnation is tomorrow’s failure.

Ideas respond to love and nurturing. Very few people have that job and that talent or the persistence. An idea nurturer. Most are naturally more cautious and more protective of the status quo.

Some people say ideas are cheap. There’s no shortage of ideas. True enough.

There’s a shortage of right ideas. there’s a shortage of fully-formed, fully-functional ideas. There’s a shortage of idea filtering skills.

Do you nix an idea too soon? Ever? Not at all. Do you nix every idea that crosses your desk? Do you hold on to the old and the safe?

Ideas are ideas. They aren’t products. They aren’t people. They aren’t action. They don’t have feelings. You can dissect them, kill them, cross fertilize them. They don’t care.

Ideas are just ideas. They are potential. Wannabes.

Like children, ideas need love. They don’t arrive fully formed or fully functioning. They don’t arrive capable of self-serving. Ideas or more like babies than ponies.

You can choke and idea by over-funding it as much as you can by staring it of love, attention and resources.

What ideas mean to you is different than they mean to me. Each idea is different. Ideas follow common paths. They emulate prior models, they follow the lines of least resistance like streams and rivers. Strong ideas want to break free. Weak ideas, seek out the banks and dry land. Perhaps their day has past. Perhaps their day is yet to come.

The same idea, the same two people, the same time.

The outcome will be different.

Prior experience, mood, motivation, resources, priority.

You name it. Two people, two projects, two teams will not create the same output from the same input.

Some win, some lose. Some fail to even get into the race.

Me. I’m in the race. I never stop churning and turning over and idea in my mind. Ideas need work. And more ideas.

I’ll never stop asking questions and curating.

I sometimes think of ideas like mustard. 90% of them get left on the plate. If you downed all the mustard, you’d likely choke.

Equally no mustard and the experience can be bland. Nobody wants milk toast. We love color, flavour, story, connection and intensity. We want to connect to ideas and product. Such connections are woven into the soul of a product. You can’t add passion post production. That’s just lipstick on a pig. And a pig is a pig. And lipstick gets washed away. You still have a pig.

Ideas are a platter you can pick from. A colour palette. You curate and create. You hone your craft. You also need to let go. Give the idea a chance to take shape and take hold.

Sometimes execution is the only option. New ideas aren’t needed, but if you follow this path, just be sure you are on the right path. Driving off the wrong cliff can be fatal.

If you’re not passionate about an idea or ideation, step away.

Ideas succeed because of the human passion that is poured into the designs.

Mac’s aren’t Mac’s by accident. Great games aren’t born, they are crafted, honed, chiseled, polished.

The best ideas are loved so intently that when others consume or experience them, they can feel the love.

Rant Over.

NIck Kellet (130 Posts)

Nick’s ventures range from a visual segmentation tool sold to SAP, to an award winning board game. Today, Nick is co-founder of Listly, raising the profile of lists to be on par with Slideshare & YouTube.