The Blue Sky Method of Dealing With Writer’s Block

We’ve all been there. At some point in life we’ll all come to a point where in we’ll run out of ideas and we’ll find ourselves staring helplessly at a blank screen with absolutely no idea what to fill it with.

It’s part of the joys and pains of creation. And it happens to even the most brilliant and the most creative. Sometimes the underlying cause is that we tend to second-guess ourselves sometimes, or overthink things, or do any number of things that cause us to get in our own ways. The problem disappears once we have dealt with our own neuroses.

But more often than not, the issue doesn’t really get that serious, and all we need to get out of our creative rut is a whack in the head, or a jolt of stimulation, just a little push to get us rolling.

That’s where brainstorming comes in. Advertising creatives are pretty great at doing this and they’ve got it down (almost) to a science. Each agency would have its own “method” of jumpstarting creativity. In the Lowe agencies, they use what is called the “Blue Sky” method, in which participants just put ideas in as if anything were possible.

Brainstorming with the blue sky method gives you permission to fail, and license to fly. When we take away the issue of falling to our deaths, many of us would probably be perfectly willing to jump off a cliff. When we take the fear of failure and fear of rejection off the table, you’d be surprised at how many interesting, kooky, wacky ideas we can bring forth.

Step 1: Write down the central topic, statement, or the problem to be dealt with.

You can do this old school on a huge sheet of paper. Or you can use a mind-mapping software like Xmind (used with an LCD projector if in a group setting). Determine the essential words and phrases — these will be the seeds from which your ideas will spring forth. If you get more than 3 seeds, it may be a sign of wordiness or lack of focus in your main statement or topic. You may want to simplify.

Step 2: Make word associations.

For each “seed”, write down everything that pops into your head. Continue branching out from each of the items you come up with. Keep on churning them out for 15 minutes or so, or until you feel you’ve exhausted your mind.

You can take a break after this stage.
Tip: Don’t edit yourself. If you’re doing this in a group, don’t shoot down others’ ideas either. Don’t think about cost, or political correctness, logistics, or “practicality”.

Step 3: Find or make connections.

Take an idea in one “tree” and try to associate or combine it with a word or idea from another are in the sheet. This brings in a lot of fresh takes on the issue and a lot of Eureka! moments.

This time, you can make a list of the ideas that you come up with. Generally, the first few ideas that you come up with are the most obvious ones. Come up with a few more.

Tip: Don’t get too attached to an idea. Advertising honcho Frank Lowe used to say, “The good is the enemy of the great.” Fixating on a particular idea might keep you from seeing the great idea when it comes.

Step 4: Detach, then come back.

Do something else. Take a nap, watch a movie, run errands or do chores. Just take your mind off it for a while. This is a very good way to get those ideas to marinate (to use a meat metaphor) or to steep and brew (to use a beverage metaphor) — which is an essential step in any creative process.

When you’re ready to come back to your blue sky, you will find yourself better able to judge on which ideas to move forward with or you may find yourself in the midst of a second wind of Eureka! moments.

Set up a criteria for judging and evaluating ideas and shortlist those that have the most merit. Trust your instincts and your own internal BS detector, and remember to not get too attached to an idea.

Moving forward

Now that you’ve given your creative juices a whack, go forth and see where an idea takes you! It should bring you to come up with better solutions to your problem or better content for your website.

Need more brainstorming ideas? Check out this article in INC.

110+ Resources For Creative Minds

Tips, tutorials, exercises and inspiration from the fields of visual art, writing, photography, blogging, design and invention.

Next time you’re stuck for ideas or inspiration I hope you’ll find something here to get your right brain firing.

A tip: sometimes the best sources of inspiration often lie far outside your own creative field.

1. 7 Can’t-Miss Ways to Kick-Start The Writing Habit

Write nothing but headlines. Write crap without feeling guilty. Schedule and show up. Write about problem solving. Edit older articles. Type out other people’s articles. Add your tip. [Tips: Writing]

2. The Wisdom of Thomas Edison

I have more respect for the fellow with a single idea who gets there than for the fellow with a thousand ideas who does nothing.

[Inspiration: Quotes]

3. Web Urbanist

Urban Culture, guerilla communication and street art images. [Inspiration: Art & Culture]

4. 100 Blog Topics I Hope YOU Write

Chris Brogan’s challenge to bloggers should be fuel for dozens of innovative post ideas. [Ideas: Blogging]

5. Stencil Revolution

Thousands of innovative stencil artworks, from on and off the street. [Inspiration: Art]

6. How to Survive Creative Burn-out

“But the day it hits you, the world seems suddenly grey. What was once fun and challenging feel stupid and annoying. Or perhaps the things that used to motivate or move you don’t resonate at all. You feel nothing for them. It all just seems like so much more crap to deal with. If this sounds familiar, or you fear that this day is in your future, this essay is for you.” [Tips: Creativity]

7. Dreaming the Industrial Body

“In the early 20th century, Fritz Kahn produced a succession of books on the inner workings of the human body, using visual metaphors drawn from industrial society—assembly lines, internal combustion engines, refineries, dynamos, telephones, etc.” [Inspiration: Art]

8. Complete Your First Book With These 9 Simple Writing Habits

Writing time. Simple tools. Writing log. Idea time. Capture ideas. Just start. Write when inspired. Revise. Book bible. [Tips: Writing]

9. 15 Design Decisions That Annoy Readers

Sometimes we learn more about what we should do by reading about what we should always avoid. [Tips: Design]

10. Seth Godin on Big Ideas

“History is littered with inventors who had “great” ideas but kept them quiet and then poorly executed them. And history is lit up with do-ers who took ideas that were floating around in the ether and actually made something happen. In fact, just about every successful venture is based on an unoriginal idea, beautifully executed.” [Inspiration: Creativity]

11. Cory Doctorow on Giving It Away

Doctorow is a sci-fi writer who made his fortune by giving away the fruits of his best ideas. This article might just change the way you think about exchanging creative works for money.[Inspiration: Creativity & Money]

12. Pingnews Collections @ Flickr

A massive selection of public domain historical photography from around the world. [Inspiration: Photography]

13. A Brief Message

Pithy thoughts and theories on design and innovation in sub-200 words. The design of the site is ever-changing. [Inspiration: Design]

14. Timothy Ferriss on Doing The Impossible

“The key to finding means to accomplish the “impossible” is asking the right question: “How would you do ____ for a week if your life depended on it?” Most things considered impossible just haven’t been looked at through the “how” lens of lateral thinking.” [Tips: Innovation]

15. Battling Blogger’s Block

“It’s all very well and good to join a conversation – but look for the gaps in conversations also and you might just find yourself starting a whole new line of thought.” [Tips: Blogging]

16. 100 Websites You Should Know and Use

TEDBlog promises to provide ideas worth spreading, and this list delivers. 100 innovative websites in the knowledge, arts, e-commerce, search and resource fields: some you will know, others you won’t. [Inspiration: Web]

17. How to Write a Book: The Short Honest Truth

“Writing a good book, compared to a bad one, involves one thing. Work. No one wants to hear this, but if you take two books off any shelf, I’ll bet my pants the author of the better book worked harder than the author of the other one.” [Tips: Writing]

18. Language is a Virus

Helping you cure writer’s block with generators, exercises, visuals, brainstorming and names you can pilfer.

19. “Where do you get your ideas?”

“Frankly, I have trouble just understanding the question — how can you not get ideas?” — Lawrence Watt-Evans [Tips: Ideas]

20. The World Without Us by Alan Weisman

This interactive Flash display is Alan Weisman’s projection of the changes the world would undergo without us on it. Sometimes imagining the inconceivable can be a great way to get the mind working differently. [Inspiration: Innovation]

21. Moleskine Project

The Moleskine notebook has been an idea catcher for creative thinkers across generations. This blog collates doodles and illustrations from creative minds — the only requirement is that they’re committed to a cream-colored Moleskine page. [Inspiration: Art]

22. 101 Great Posting Ideas That Will Make Your Blog Sizzle

Philip Liu ensures every blogger has plenty of ideas saved up for a rainy day. [Ideas: blogging]

23. Diastema’s Toy Photos

Flickr is home to many innovative photographers and Diastema is one of them. Her tiny toy collection finds itself in all kinds of unusual, colorful and perilous situations. [Inspiration: Photography]

24. Slinkachu’s Little People

The artist’s tiny people help us to see the world from a different perspective. More innovative photography to get you approaching things from a new angle. [Inspiration: Photography]

25. Collected Creativity Quotes

“It is better to have enough ideas for some of them to be wrong, than to be always right by having no ideas at all.” — Edward de Bono [Quotes: Creativity]

26. Seth Godin on Creativity

“99% of the time, in my experience, the hard part about creativity isn’t coming up with something no one has ever thought of before. The hard part is actually executing the thing you’ve thought of.” [Tips: Creativity]

27. Creative Thinking Hacks

“On the new creative landscape you’ve made, place the following simple definition: an idea is a combination of other ideas. Say it five times out loud. Say it to your cat. Yell it out you car window at strangers waiting for the bus.” [Tips: Ideas]

28. Idea Recording

Comprehensive article outlining the various ways ideas can be recorded. Thomas Edison and Da Vinci used notebooks, but your tastes might be different. [Tips: Ideas]

29. FOUND Magazine

“We collect FOUND stuff: love letters, birthday cards, kids’ homework, to-do lists, ticket stubs, poetry on napkins, telephone bills, doodles – anything that gives a glimpse into someone else’s life.” [Inspiration: Culture]

30. How Do You Woo The Muse?

“You can’t passively eye the beautiful muse sitting at the bar, waiting and hoping for her to approach you. You have to go to her, promise her greatness, and hope that she accepts your pitch – and maybe, just maybe, stays on for the long haul.” [Tips: Creativity]

31. Wildcard.jp.org

When it comes to design, the Japanese are world leaders. Physics, art, minimalism and interactivity merge into one interesting user experience. Bliss out to the ambient music, make some shapes and slip into a different way of thinking. You can change the visualizations via the controls at the bottom. [Inspiration: Art]

32. Classic Cat

Some of the greatest creative works in history were conceived and executed whilst the complex strains of classical music filled the air. Classic Cat hosts hundreds of free and legal downloads from well-known composers. [Inspiration: Music]

33. gaping void

Hugh McLeod has churned out thousands of poignant and thought-provoking cartoons in his time. Subscribe to his blog for a regular stream of pithy thought and philosophical doodles.[Inspiration: Art]

34. Do You Recognize These 10 Mental Blocks to Creative Thinking?

Trying to find the “right” answer. Logical thinking. Following rules. Being practical. Play is not work. That’s not my job. Being a “serious” person. Avoiding ambiguity. Being wrong is bad. I’m not creative. [Tips: Creativity]

35. How to Write Remarkably Creative Content

“Inspiration from other sources is what creativity is all about. It seems that many people believe creativity involves pulling a completely brand new idea out of thin air. In truth, creativity is an adaptive process that consists of looking at the same existing thing everyone else is and thinking about it differently.” [Tips: Creativity]

36. Flickr as a Source of Inspiration

28 inspirational photo pools for designers, from AdBusting to Typography to Illustration.[Inspiration: Photography]

37. 34 Places to Get Design Inspiration: Online & Off

It’s resources like these that explain why Freelance Switch has experienced such phenomenal growth. This post showcases some outstanding design sites while suggesting real-world sources of design inspiration (yep — you might actually have to swap the light of the computer screen for the light of day). [Inspiration: Design]

38. 37 Sources of Inspiration

A group writing project at Inspirationbit.com saw 37 bloggers outline where they find inspiration on a day-to-day basis. [Inspiration: Blogging]

39. DeviantART
Often unsung, sometimes unknown, occasionally genius: DeviantART allows anyone with talent to showcase their visual art to an audience of thousands. [Inspiration: Art]

40. Smashing Magazine
A resource for web developers and designers, Smashing Magazine never publishes a half-baked post. Amongst the tips, tools, resources and useful lists you’re bound to find something that strikes a creative spark. [Inspiration: Web]

41. xhilarate: supercharged creative bookmarks

The xhilarate team provide us with carefully picked links to cutting-edge web and industrial design, advertising and contemporary art. [Inspiration: Design]

42. The Secret to Getting Others to Talk About You

Ankesh Kothari outlines a creative approach to getting noticed. Chock-full of anecdotes, examples and fine writing, this article is a must-read for any innovative individual hoping to have their talent recognized. [Tips: Innovation]

43. Drawn! The Illustration and Cartooning Blog

This blog showcases illustrators and cartoonists dabbling in every genre under the sun and above the ground (though their characters surely sometimes venture beyond both). From graphic novel realists to masters of the stick-figure, this blog is a visual treat. [Inspiration: Art]

44. Digg Labs {Arc.BigSpy.Stack.Swarm}

Digg labs allows you to take a birds-eye view of the content submitted to Digg, with a clear distinction between more popular and less popular content. When brainstorming headlines or post ideas Digg labs can be a useful first port of call. [Inspiration: Web]

45. Jackson Pollock by Miltos Manetas

Create your own Jackson Pollock-style artwork by moving your cursor and clicking to change the color of your paint. Hit spacebar to clear the canvas. Much cleaner than doing it with actual paint, which is a bonus. [Inspiration: Art]

46. Time to Write: a weblog

Jurgen Wolff’s tips, ideas and inspiration for writers and would-be writers. [Inspiration: Writing]

47. A4 Papercut

Intricate artworks and models cut out of a single sheet of A4 paper. Proof that much can be done with little, and that art is more than the sum of its parts. [Inspiration: Art]

48. New Minimalism in Web Interface Design

A fantastic resource for web designers looking for minimalist inspiration, this page tracks the evolution of minimalist web design and contains a number of useful resources for those trying to achieve it. [Inspiration: Design]

49. xkcd: a webcomic

Romace, sarcasm, math and language: a webcomic to help you laugh and think. [Inspiration: Art]

50. 7 Rules for Maximizing Your Creative Output

“For me the creative flow state is a common occurrence. I usually enter this state several times a week, staying with it for hours at a time. I’m able to routinely enjoy the flow state as long as I ensure the right conditions, which I’ll share with you in a moment.” [Tips: Creativity]

51. Boing Boing

A steady stream of oddities, ideas, innovation, pop-culture and the unusual: Boing Boing is a virtual tour of the unorthodox. What better way to get you thinking differently? [Inspiration: Web]

52. Sidewalk Chalk Guy

Mr. Sidewalk Chalk busies himself by reinventing the pavement in three dimensions, often placing pedestrians in artificially perilous situations: in hell, or water, or a chasm inhabited by Roman gods. You know, the usual. [Inspiration: Street art]

53. Flickr: Photos Tagged ‘Street Art’

This page seems to update every time you look at it. As far as I’m concerned, street art is where the real artistic innovation is occurring. Any contemporary designer who prides themselves on being located at the cutting edge should have a firm grip on this stuff. [Inspiration: Street art]

54. Top 10 Tips For Overcoming Writer’s Block

“If we think of ourselves as laborers, as craftsmen, it’s easier to sit down and write. We’re just putting words on the page, after all, one beside another, as a bricklayer puts down bricks. At the end of the day, we’re just creating things — stories, poems, or plays — only we use vocabulary and grammar instead of bricks and mortar.” [Tips: Writing]

55. The 6 Myths of Creativity

Creativity comes from creative types. Money is a creativity motivator. Time pressure fuels creativity. Fear forces breakthroughs. Competition beats collaboration. A streamlined organization is a creative organization. [Tips: Creativity]

56. Quick Story Idea Generator

The theme of this story: romantic slice-of-life. The main character: frustrated cab driver. The major event of the story: theft. [Ideas: Writing]

57. JPG Magazine

Dedicated to innovation in photography. When you’re sick of trawling Flickr for the odd diamond-in-the-rough, great photography can be found here without the hassles. [Inspiration: Photography]

58. 25 Unique Places to Find Story Ideas

“The little things from life’s daily events can also provide dozens of ideas. Anything you do or anywhere you go could supply fodder for your next story. You simply need to keep your mind open.” [Tips: Writing]

59. 111 Instant Blog Post Ideas

Many of these ideas have a business focus, but could be easily adapted to other niches with a little bit of tweaking. Add this list of post ideas to your arsenal and blogging inspiration should not be too far off. [Ideas: Blogging]

60. Projectionist: a tumblelog

Music, images, uncommon words, code snippets and links. Projectionist is one of the web’s best-known tumblelogs, and for good reason. There is so much here that you’re bound to find something that gets your neurons firing. [Inspiration: Web]

61. 10 Killer Post Ideas

While the post idea sets previously provided in this article have emphasized quantity and brevity, this article explores ten ideas in greater detail. [Ideas: Blogging]

62. How to Find Your Creative Zen

“In reality, these Zen-like states are not nearly as unpredictable or as unattainable as you might think. In most cases, they occur as natural fallout from a well-constructed creative process. If you want to live on that free-flowing edge, then you must learn how to force your brain through the sequence of triggers that will result in your own cognitive Zen.” [Tips: Creativity]

63. StumbleUpon

Presents the best of the web in what is virtually a slideshow format. Uninspired by a stumble? Then stumble somewhere else with a single click. [Inspiration: Web]

64. Reddit

A social bookmarking service that, unlike StumbleUpon, is less about entire websites and more about specific content. Unlike StumbleUpon you can browse headlines and visit only those than interest you. [Inspiration: Web]

65. Hugh McLeod on How to be Creative

This post is a gargantuan resource collating prolific cartoonist Hugh McLeod’s thoughts on the matter. Some key points: ignore everybody. Don’t count on being ‘discovered’. Avoid crowds. Do it for yourself. Eschew the need for approval, and others. Highly recommended. [Tips: Creativity]

66. 64 of the World’s Greatest Paintings

These paintings are all recognized as outstanding (often legendary) contributions to the world of art. Sometimes nothing brings out our own creativity more than basking in the creativity of the greats. [Inspiration: Art]

67. Fifty Phrases That Kill Creativity

It’s never been tried. Don’t rock the boat. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Let’s give it more thought.[Tips: Creativity]

68. Thinking Like a Genius

“Aristotle considered metaphor a sign of genius, and believed that the individual who had the capacity to perceive resemblances between two separate areas of existence and link them together was a person of special gifts.” [Tips: Creativity]

69. Blentwell

Classical music barely ruffles your white, curly wig? Try Blentwell, the people’s DJ mixset link collective. Whether you’re into rock, hip hop, house or grime, crunk and baile funk, you’ll find a mix to form a suitable backdrop to your creative endeavours. [Inspiration: Music]

70. cre.ations.net

An open showcase of creativity across all fields: from face-mounted lucid dreaming masks to an extravagantly decorated cookie island. [Inspiration: Web]

71. An Interview With Ze Frank

Humorist. Designer. Teacher. Ze Frank is one of the most creative individuals currently calling the web his home. This interview focuses on the creative process behind all of Frank’s projects.[Inspiration: Culture]

72. Manufacturing Inspiration

“Inspiration is a luxury. I do not sit down at my computer spiritually aglow, fingers tapping in ecstasy. I think it’s a bad model for writers. Novels are more like houses, the process of constructing one a long and labor-intensive activity. There are sparks of insight, moments of crystalline clarity, but more often writing resembles brick-laying, a word, a sentence, a paragraph at a time.” [Inspiration: Writing]

73. George Orwell’s 5 Rules For Effective Writing Style

Never use metaphors, similes or other figures of speech you are used of seeing in print. Don’t use long words where a short one will do. Cut out unnecessary words. Avoid jargon. Break rules.[Tips: Writing]

74. Behance: Make Ideas Happen

Showcasing creative professional work from a number of fields, Behance speaks to creative minds to tease out how and why they work. [Inspiration: Creativity]

75. Mr. Picassohead

Assemble your own Picasso-style painting from various drag-and-drop shapes and figures. If you’re lucky, cubist painting will lead to cubist thinking. [Inspiration: Art]

76. Anarchaia: a tumblelog

Sure to suit geekier tastes, Anarchaia showcases its contents with minimal commentary and analysis. The simple act of interpreting what you see is a creative exercise in its own right.[Inspiration: Web]

77. Limit Creativity, Get Innovation

“The reasonable person finds this overwhelming. Creativity’s root is the tension filled conflict between the imagination and the physical: input and output, insight and achievement, learning and performing. Remove conflict and there is no need for creativity.” [Tips: Innovation]

78. My Top 5 Sources of Inspiration in Photography

Accomplishments of mankind. Beauty of nature. Other photographs. Challenge. Kids.[Inspiration: Photography]

79. Hack Your Way Out of Writer’s Block

It’s hard to think of a bigger obstacle to productivity than writer’s block. Productivity guru Merlin Mann shares his thoughts on battling with the muse’s greatest enemy. [Tips: Writing]

80. 50 Ways to Become a Better Designer

“We approached 17 leading designers working in print, video and on the web, to obtain their words of wisdom on every stage of the design process, from ideas and planning, through to best practice and software skills, and finally putting the finishing touches on their work.” [Tips: Design]

81. 100%: Sophisticated Simplicity

PingMag interviews Hironao Tsuboi of Japanese design duo 100%. These guys make everyday objects beautiful — proof that innovation lives everywhere. [Inspiration: Design]

82. The Laws of Simplicity

1. The simplest way to achieve simplicity is through thoughtful reduction. 2. Organization makes a system of many appear fewer. 3. Savings in time feel like simplicity. 4. Knowledge makes everything simpler. 5. Simplicity and complexity need each other. 6. What lies in the periphery of simplicity is definitely not peripheral. 7. More emotions are better than less. 8. In simplicity we trust. 9. Some things can never be made simple. [Inspiration: Innovation]

83. bubbl.us

A simple, free web application designed to help you brainstorm online. Because sometimes a pen and paper don’t feel like enough — even though they probably are. [Inspiration: Creativity]

84. Essential Resources for Creativity

163 creativity techniques, 30 tips and recommended books from Lifehack.org. [Tips: Creativity]

85. Creativity Techniques From A-Z

“I like to think of these creativity techniques as tools in a toolbox in much the same way as my toolbox at home for DIY. It has a saw, spanner, hammer, knife and all sorts of other things in it, they are all very useful, but you have to pick the right tool (creativity technique) for each job.”[Inspiration: Creativity]

86. NotCot.org

Innovation in architecture, industrial design, food, gadgets, photography and typography, all presented via photography. [Inspiration: Design]

87. How to Become a Creative Genius

“Our minds are much like a garden. Without proper care, the weeds will take over. Nothing sparks the mind like learning something new.” [Tips: Creativity]

88. How to Stifle Your Creativity in 10 Easy Steps

Be afraid. Remind yourself of all the times you failed in the past. Stay constantly busy. Always try to fit in. Stick to what you know. Always defer to authority. Don’t ask stupid questions. Always listen to your Inner Critic. Leave thinking to the experts. Keep it simple, stupid. [Tips: Creativity]

89. Idea Killers: Ways to Stop Ideas

“Mostly these are used as thought inhibitors: they don’t require any thought to say. They’re used as flinch negative responses, dismissing without explanation. Unlike real critical thinking, which offers a path (e.g if you can overcome x, y and z we’ll consider it) idea killers are lazy dead ends.” [Tips: Creativity]

90. PostSecret

Confessions on postcards — sometimes depressing, often poignant, occasionally funny. These can kick-off ideas in any field. [Inspiration: Culture]

91. Tips for Personal Brainstorming

“By gathering all of the information that you know about your challenge and laying it out in front of you in tangible form, you enable your most powerful problem-solving tool — your brain — to see connections, interrelationships and implications in the information you’ve collected, which would not be obvious if you just kept all of this information in your head.” [Tips: Creativity]

92. Creative Advertisements Around the World

Images of advertising innovation. Too expensive to be guerilla, so it’s hard to know what to call it. Whatever you want to call it, these ads will make you think. [Inspiration: Advertising]

93. Banksy.co.uk

The world’s most notorious street artist, Banksy has made his mark across the globe: from the streets of Great Britain to the West Bank Barrier in Palestine. His art makes the viewer see their surrounds from a very different perspective. [Inspiration: Street art]

94. Interview with Lemony Snicket

Daniel Handler (Snicket’s real name) has had his books turned into movies. In other words, his creativity has made him quite rich. In this interview he talks creativity, productivity, writing routines and perseverence. [Inspiration: Writing]

95. How to Get Creative

“Creativity is all about coming up with new ideas, interpretations and methods and involves thinking and exploring what goes through your mind. It’s a quality that should be encouraged at all walks of life. You need to feed your creative side with inspirational material, give it the time and attention is needs.” [Inspiration: Creativity]

96. Drops of Blood: a weblog

A weblog for fiction writers containing tips, tricks, thoughts and resources. An interesting quote from the main page: “One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.” — Andre Gide [Inspiration: Writing]

97. 10 Steps For Boosting Your Creativity

“8. Don’t do drugs. People on drugs think they are creative. To everyone else, they seem like people on drugs.” [Tips: Creativity]

98. How to be a More Creative Blogger
Evolution. Reapplication. Synthesis. Revolution. Changing direction. [Tips: Blogging]

99. 10 Ways to Start a Blog Post

When I look at the people around me . . . If I could, I’d invent . . . It happens the same way every time . . . When I sit down with the news every morning . . . [Ideas: Blogging]

100. Kottke.org

Jason Kottke has been blogging forever. He consistently unearths valuable nuggets of art and culture from the hidden pockets of the web. Any creative mind will find something to love here.[Inspiration: Web]

101. 10 Tips for Overcoming Writer’s Block

Another article on this perennially troubling topic, to the tune of: make a deal with your Inner Critic. Remember who you’re writing for. Sit down. Stand up. Imagine you’re having a drink with a friend. Leave the house without a notebook. Get trigger happy. Talk to other writers. Have some fun. [Tips: Writing]

102. Set a Deadline to Goad Your Creative Juices

“Strict limits can be a powerful stimulant to the creative process. If you’ve ever been asked to solve a challenging problem with a small budget or a tight deadline, you’ve probably found that you were much more resourceful than if you had been granted a ton of money and time.” [Tips: Creativity]

103. An Interview With James Warren Perry

Painter James Warren Perry talks idea generation, day-to-day creative habits, burn-out, creativity techniques and productivity. [Inspiration: Creativity]

104. Neatorama

A more mainstream (or perhaps, more accurately, less pretentious) Boing Boing-style blog offering a regularly updated stream of wierd, awe-inspiring and innovative cultural curiosities.[Inspiration: Web]

105. 9 Attitudes of Highly Creative People

“Creative people see problems as a natural and normal part of life – in fact they often have a fascination with problems and are drawn to them.” [Tips: Creativity]

106. Tumblr: Radar

Tumblelogs aggregate the online lives of avid web users. The Radar at Tumblr.com highlights some of the most fascinating tumblelogs hosted on the service. Expect photos, links and quotes without the fluff. [Inspiration: Innovation]

107: Writing Hacks: Starting

“Writing is easy, it’s quality that’s hard. Any idiot who knows 5 words can write a sentence (e.g. “Dufus big much Scott is”). It might be grammarless, broken, or inaccurate but it is writing. This means that when people can’t start they’re imagining the precision of the end, all polished and brilliant, a vision that makes the ugly clumsy junkyard that all beginnings are, impossible to accept.” [Tips: Writing]

108. Seth Godin on Real Creativity

“I think that inventing the unimplementable is a fine hobby, but it’s also a bit of a crutch. Yes, of course we need big visions and big ideas, but not at the expense of the stuff you can actually pull off.” [Tips: Creativity]

109. D. Keith Robinson on Overcoming Writer’s Block

Record everything. Wander the bookstore. Ask a question. Take risks. Take advantage of creative highs. Get the title first. Pay attention to reader feedback. Become a commentator. Go off-topic. Use real-world stories. Take a drive or a walk. Keep writing. [Tips: Writing]

110. 101 Ways to Brew Up a Great Idea

Take a warm bath. Go for a drive with the windows open. Order Chinese food and eat it with chopsticks. Call a random phone number — ask a stranger. And more: they’re facetious, but they might just work. [Tips: Creativity]

111. Flickr: Explore!

Photos generating a buzz over the last seven days on Flickr, ranked by so-called ‘interestingness’. Regardless of what that means, this service is a great way to get several great images quickly delivered. [Inspiration: Photography]

Creating Without Ulterior Motives

woman with catPhoto by Alice Popkorn.

If one part of blogging has suffered in the last year or two, it’s blogging as an end rather than a means.

Creating a blog for the sake of watching it grow, entertaining people, helping people, and making something you could be proud of.

This blog started out in that spirit, and my best blogging days were the early ones, where I cared only about content and quality and writing things that people read. Things that helped people sometimes.

Then, collectively, we discovered that blogs could be powerful tools for making money. For many, posts became more about the ad impressions and affiliate sales they generated than about putting something of quality into the world.

Some people held out (I did for a while), but soon people discovered that there were ways to make money without ads and affiliate marketing, like freelancing or book deals or speaking gigs (and this is where it got me).

The bloggers measuring ad impressions and click-throughs were joined by bloggers counting Twitter followers and consulting gigs.

Then we discovered info products and courses, ways to make money by teaching. We’re good at teaching, and it’s more fun to make products than tweak AdSense, and products make more money than ads do.

The measure of a post’s success moved from ad impressions and affiliate commissions to eBook sales and course sign-ups.

In some cases, the content on formerly high-quality blogs turned into an endless stream of thinly veiled pre-launch material, where every new post has an ulterior motive and every word is another part of the sales process.

This sounds like a condemnation, but if it is, I’m condemning myself. I lost my passion for blogging for a long time because it changed into something I saw as the ‘I’ in ROI, part of building my personal brand (and all the while, the most popular and well-loved post on this guru’s blog is about putting Flickr images in blog posts!).

I started blogging to create and learn and teach, I stopped blogging because half of me got angry at myself for doing things to make money, and the other half was frustrated when I didn’t.

I’m not angry at myself for this, nor am I angry at other bloggers who’ve fallen into the same rut, but are much better marketers than me and have more confidence in what they’re doing, and so spent more time making sales than hesitating over the keyboard.

We’ve got mortgages and sometimes kids and we all need money desperately, so if it’s a choice between making money and feeling fuzzy, we’ll make money.

But the hard sell comes at a cost, and many bloggers have lost touch with why they started blogging, and the goals they hoped to achieve before they knew making money was possible.

It happens because we see money and freedom as one and the same. Most of us are not chasing luxury cars and designer clothes.

We want to earn money so we don’t have to worry about money, so we can do the things we like doing when money is taken out of the equation.

We work our butts off to reach an idyllic point where we don’t have to worry anymore, a mental state also shared with people who don’t earn a whole lot of money but want less (and smaller) stuff. The latter group tend to be the happiest people you’ll meet.

This is all a long-winded way of saying that you’ll get more happiness from your blog if you see it as something that has value and meaning in its own right, rather than being food for a very hungry sales-machine.

When I say happiness, I’m talking about the lasting kind. The kind that contributes to a life well-lived.

Do what you need to earn a living, but this month, do some things you’re proud of that don’t have a hope of earning you money.

Spend a few hours you’d usually spend marketing helping people who are not your target market, even indirectly, to the nth degree.

Write a post about something you know nothing about, but would like to learn. Start something from scratch without leveraging what you already have.

Do you remember what it feels like to create for its own sake?

Make less money and more happiness.
Sell less, help people more.
Market less, create more.

The Idea Factory – How to Enable Your Creativity

Every business, every project, every solution begins with an idea; a seedling in your mind that you bring to reality.

Ideas and creativity are essential tools for success in every field from the sciences to the arts to business.

At some points everyone has experienced the thrill of a great idea and its power to inspire, create, change and solve.

Yet given such an extraordinary process, rarely do we consider how to stimulate, optimize or characterize it.

What follows are six steps that I take to be more creative. I hope they will help you in your pursuits, whether it is in the context of business ideas or perhaps some other activity.

1. Encourage Randomness

I do not believe ideas come out of nowhere. Given a certain set of events, experiences and stimulus your brain arranges and rearranges the information to produce beliefs, knowledge and ideas.

It follows then that the more new events, occurrences, people and ideas you are exposed to, the more material your brain has to work with and the greater the chances that you will come up with new ideas.

So when creativity is your goal, it makes sense to expose yourself to as much external stimulus as possible. The best way to do this is to introduce as much chance and randomness into your life as possible.

For example you might take a different route to work, talk to new people, watch a different channel, eat in a new restaurant or just mix up your routine.

By randomizing your daily activities you increase the newness of what your brain experiences and increase the chance of new thoughts and ideas.

2. Look for Connections

An idea is often the result of a connection between a few different thoughts. As an example:“People like watching movies”, “People like a big selection”, “Working online means you can offer a big selection with no storage space” … “An online service for movies could offer a much greater selection and therefore be more popular than an offline one.”

Searching for connections then is a good way of stimulating ideas. When I am looking for ideas relating to a certain problem I will try making connections between things I see, things I hear and thoughts I have and the problem I am trying to solve.

It doesn’t matter how odd or incongruous things seem, linking two random thoughts can generate unexpected and often original and creative results.

Another thing I do is find ways to connect old ideas with new ones. Recycling inspiration I’ve had before or finding ways to reuse an idea that might not have been appropriate has served me well.

Similarly ideas I reject today I keep on the back burner as they might be useful later. So for example I walked into a book store 2 years ago and couldn’t find a good book about online business, months ago when I thought to start a blog I remembered that I had thought about that book and came up with the idea to write a blog to companion a book that I would produce over the course of a year.

3. Be Ready to Receive

There is nothing worse than forgetting a great idea. When inspiration strikes you want to be ready.

If you find you have ideas at night then keep a notebook next to your bed, if they happen in the car, get a voice recorder, if you often have nothing nearby learn some memory techniques to help you hold on to those precious ideas. Whatever the case, be ready…

4. Be Proactive

Many people have a place or an activity which helps them think and which they have a history of ideas with. Whether it is the shower, the kitchen, running or lying in bed, you want to do *more* of that.

If you need to have ideas at work but find that you have the best ones at home in the shower, find what it is that helps trigger ideas about being in the shower and find a way to replicate that in your workspace.

So if it is the solitude of a shower find a place at work where you can experience the same feeling, if you need a monotonous activity, again find a way to replicate it.

Being proactive about idea generation also means thinking as much as possible and as often as possible. It means setting aside time specifically for that task, time during which you are not under pressure or stress.

5. Be open and indiscriminate

If you have ever ‘brainstormed’ for ideas you will know that a key part of the process is to be open to any and all ideas that come your way.

You write them *all* down, no matter how dumb, how far-fetched, how weird or how silly they seem. You can always cull later, but during the generation process letting your mind run free without the worry of staying within artificial safe boundaries is much more important.

Be open to anything your brain spits out, consider every possibility rather than just rejecting some outright. If an idea has obvious inherent problems you can start thinking about ways to fix those problems with other ideas – again finding connections.

If it truly is worthless eventually you can move on knowing that the avenue was explored fully.

6. Give yourself Time

In my experience pressure and stress are not particularly conducive to the creative thought process. The only times they help are when you have difficulty concentrating without them.

For most people however having ample amounts of time to explore different possibilities is optimum. So relax and don’t try to hurry the process.

Often sleeping on a problem or taking your mind off it for a while gives your subconscious time to chew on it and deliver a result at the most unexpected moment.

So there you have it, a few of the ways I like to get creativity happening. Tomorrow I’ll be looking more specifically at how to generate business ideas and then how to investigate a business idea.