Idea Incubator 16: The Focus of Variety


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glass collection of Liane Sebastian
Establishing the Creative Mind is a daily pursuit of awareness. Most ideas take time to develop. They can spark new possibilities or variations throughout the process. Staying fresh, nurturing new approaches, and establishing a momentum all lead to the greatest work. Rarely is the first idea the best. There is a predictable hierarchy:

• The first idea is the most obvious or expected.

• The second idea is the most conservative.

• The third idea is the most radical.

Next come ideas that might revise or replace any of the first three. Concepts taken too far can become complex, overwhelming, or overworked. To stay fresh means to keep exploring yet at the same time, stay focused to execute excellence.

Returning to one of the best writers on creativity (see my previous blog), Gail McMeekin, says:

 “Changing the configuration of your viewpoint often cuts through the haze of having no ideas. Experiment and watch the solution appear! Allow your intuitive messages to help you.”
—Gail McMeekin, contributor to Women who Win at Work

Variety feeds ideas. Yet so does creative discipline in carrying out those ideas. Finding a balance between inspiration and production means planning.

• How can you add exploration into your daily work (reading, videos, music, walking, etc.)?

• What ‘escapes’ can you use that will absorb your attention and give new input (events, exhibits, concerts, field trips, site visits, etc.)?

• For every errand that you make, try to add a side stop to an exhibit, event, garden, scenic spot—whatever will expand your viewpoint.

Concluding the second section of this Idea Incubator, the “Creative Mind,” I wish to share my best resources. It is rare for me not to have ideas, but these activities work. They are also useful for refining concepts:

Liane’s Top Ten Sources for Finding Ideas:

1—Visit Lake Michigan. Gazing over the endless expanse of water, observing the color changes, watching weather patterns, tracking sailboats in the distance, all take my mind to another “channel.” It is the quickest way to gain perspective.

2—Watch the Science Channel. The geology, astronomy, and anthropology documentaries never fail to jangle a current parallel. Fascinated by ancient history—especially visually—the fascination with symbolism and patterns deepens. Technology is enabling us to know history with greater depth and reveals the origins of intentions and explorations.

3—Read. In my weekly trip to the library, I feel like a kid in a candy shop. My own library is overflowing in ten book cases, they stack in my living room and cascade off my desk. I read about four at once, usually about business, marketing, or psychology.

4—See shows. Perhaps the greatest advantage of being in Chicago is the proximity to events. Without having to travel far, there are more shows, exhibits, and events than I could ever attend, even if I cloned myself! Whenever I need a jolt of another viewpoint, there are dozens of options to escape into.

5—Study history. Whether in books, documentaries, or site visits, other time periods and how lifestyles have changed always has origins for great ideas. Every artist borrows from the past. To build upon it with new combinations is energizing.

6—Contribute to causes. Because my professional focus is on nonprofit initiatives, most of my clients are nonprofit organizations. Embracing their cause inspires both ideas and generosity.

7—Address aggravations. Using myself for inspiriation, observing what annoys, angers, or outrages is endlessly motivating. Finding solutions for what is wrong with the world is probably creativity’s number one source.

8—Gardening. Blessed with a green thumb, tending indoor and outdoor plants provides a microcosm of drama, success, failure, and adventure. I use them in my illustrations and design, such as the Women who Win at Work category of this blog and the book of the same name.

9—Listen to music. Mood controlling, many painters are known for using music to propel their expression (Picasso and Pollock, most notably). I use jazz for drawing, classical for writing, and rock for production.

10—Visit with friends. Most of my friends aren’t graphic designers. Some are in related businesses. So little inspires me more than reacting to what others are doing, getting feedback on my ideas, and most importantly, the gift of reality-check.

Hopefully these ideas help you form a Creative Mind—one you can sustain and grow. But the ideas and the development are only half the job of creative realization. Next comes the task of keeping a momentum and enhancing direction with a continual flow of complimentary ideas or new ways to execute.

See the developing series of Idea Incubators.

Liane Sebastian, illustrator, designer, writer, and publishing pioneer


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2 Responses to “Idea Incubator 16: The Focus of Variety”

  1. Idea Incubator 24: Emotions as Creative Guideposts « Wisdomofwork's Blog Says:

    […] Discover meaningful ideas. Brainstorming begins with a solitary exploration. #16: “The Focus of Variety” Develop a battery of approaches, ideas, tricks, and […]

  2. Showdown: Creativity Faces Fear « Wisdomofwork's Blog Says:

    […] [Returning to one of the best writers on creativity (see my previous blog), Gail McMeekin, says] “The Focus of Variety” “Emotions […]

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