I was sitting in an editorial meeting planning out content for the next issue of the magazine I worked at when my editor turned to me, “So, what are your story ideas?” I paused. And thought. I had spent so much time thinking of new things we could write about for the magazine, but when I needed them, the ideas had all vanished.
I was sitting across the table from an interviewer when she asked me, “If you were to start working with us tomorrow, what articles would you want to write for the magazine?” I scrambled and blurted out the first thing that came to mind.
Do you ever wish you could be an idea machine? That when someone turned to you for a suggestion, you’d always have one ready—or two? That when you sat down to write you’d have a drawerful of ideas to pull from and when faced with a problem you’d have a few solutions in mind?
Ideas are powerful and often elusive things. James Altucher has recently popularized the theory that the process of idea generation is like a muscle. The more you use it; the stronger it gets. The more ideas you have; the more you’ll have ideas.
For creatives, ideas are like seeds. You have the water and light to make things grow—determination, passion, experience—but without ideas there’s not much for you to pour your energy into. So if ideas are integral to creativity, and generating them is like strengthening a muscle then the best thing to do is to come up with ideas on the regular.
That’s why James Altucher suggests developing at least 10 ideas a day. It’s also why our online course Spark Your Creativity ends each week with an idea builder. We provide a theme, and you list 10 ideas that are relevant. Don’t stop at 6 (or 9) and don’t worry about whether the ideas are reasonable or feasible. Practice developing new ideas until it becomes natural. You’ll never be stuck speechless in a meeting again. (That’s not just me, right?)