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John's GET STARTED Series: "Ideas On How To Get Ideas"

Updated: Mar 22, 2022

This is always a funny question to me - how do you come up with ideas?

Honestly, some people are better at generating ideas than others, but we all are idea generating machines. That’s what our brains are for. To explain what the heck is happening all around us. When the wind blows through the grass, our brains are hardwired to look for reasons that explain the cause, just in case it’s lions or tigers or bears and not just the wind.

Maybe it would help if I asked a follow up question: What do you want to do with your ideas? If you’re an actor, say, who wants to come up with ideas for creative projects you can produce and star in, then I’d start with that end in mind.

If that’s the case, my suggestion is to follow the leader. What are the roles you think you’re best suited to play? Look at the films and shows you’re destined to work on and use them as a template. Think you’d make a great detective on that gritty hour long cop procedural? Reverse engineer your favorite scene, sequence, or episode for your material.

To my mind, that’s the most straightforward way to get from “no ideas” to having material that will help portray you as an actor who can do the roles you think are in your wheel house. Speaking of wheels, you don’t need to reinvent them.

If, on the other hand, you think this is a crass and shallow approach to art, then I have plenty of other more arty suggestions for generating ideas:

Suggestion #1 - Always be looking, always be prepared for ideas. You never know what will spark an idea, so have something on you at all times where you can catch them and record them. If you happen to have a cell phone in your pocket, you can write these gems in the notes app. You can put them down in a voice memo.

Suggestion #2 - Try to expand your creative input to expand your creative output. I get ideas listening to podcasts, reading the news, listening to music, looking at art. And really try NEW things. New people, new experiences, new food.

Suggestion #3 - Relax. Most of my best ideas come when I’m walking my dog, taking a shower, or exercising. I guess exercising wouldn’t be considered relaxing, but I’m not focused on working, being creative, and the blood is flowing to my brain.

Suggestion #4 - You really should be keeping a journal. It’s good for you anyway. But it can help your creativity in a few ways. One way I journal is to write three pages in a notebook following one rule - I can’t stop moving my hand. Other than that, no rules. I could write "lemon meringue" over and over for the full three pages. Spelling, handwriting, nothing else matters. The result is that you won’t be able to censor yourself, and you will write down some surprising … ideas.

Want to more suggestions about how to come up with ideas? Just ask! I have plenty of ideas for you. And if you have any suggestions, we’d love to hear them!

Share them with us in the comments below:

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