How To Become An Idea Generation Machine
The Story Of the Salmon Smoothie
Drinking a salmon smoothie is a throw-uppable offense. There, I said it. Wait. Maybe if you remove the skin first it wouldn’t be so vile. No, I don’t think there is any possibility of making a salmon smoothie appetizing.
But where on earth did I get this crazy idea? The title of this post is “How To Become An Idea Machine.” I never promised all your ideas would be good. Just like the salmon smoothie, some ideas just aren’t worth pursuing. Most of your ideas from this process will suck. But there is some good news.
You Don’t Need Lots Of Good Ideas
You just need lots of ideas. Let’s pretend you write one story a day. For the more prolific, or the fiction writers, let’s pretend it’s two scenes or two stories per day. If you dream up twenty ideas a day, you only need two good ones. That’s a ten percent success streak.
So, how do we find these ideas? Here’s the entire system.
First, you need a phone. I’ll assume you already have one of those. Second, you need a notebook. You can use your laptop if you prefer but I find a good ole paper notebook works better.
As you go about your day, keep your eyes and ears attuned to the world around you. What’s happening? What are other people talking about in their conversations? What about your discussions with friends, colleagues and family? Every so often I’ll email myself a detail about what I experience or observe. I don’t judge these experiences or observations. I only notice. You want quantity not quality.
Each night, I write down these experiences and observations in my journal. I fill up one complete page of a spiral bound book. On average, it comes to twenty-two entries per night.
I start with the ones that pop into my mind first. Once I start drawing blanks, I look at the notes or emails of my observations and backfill the remaining slots in my notebook.
The next morning, I put a small circle next to my favorite experiences or observations. I limit this to my top three favorites. Sometimes it’ll only be one or two but never more than three. I’ll then write these three experiences on a separate page.
Next, I combine some of the rejected ideas with my good ideas. I mix and match and experiment with different combinations. This action might create anything from the nonsensical to the idiotic to the insightful. You never know what you get. This step is the key. The act of combining unleashes creativity. It forces you to tweak and polish your bizarre or outlandish idea into something cogent.
You’ll still end up with crap ninety percent of the time. Like I said earlier, you don’t need many good ones.
So, how did I come up with the salmon smoothie idea? There was an observation and an experience that contributed to this monstrosity.
Observation: My wife made a smoothie but pressed the wrong button. The juice splattered out of the top.
Experience: I ate salmon for dinner.
Combine: Salmon smoothie
Refine: Remove the skin on the salmon before you throw it into a smoothie
Tweak: Still gross. Eating a salmon smoothie is still a throw-uppable offense.