Finding Fresh Ideas (when everything’s already been done)

Did you know that when it comes to our artistic work there are no truly new ideas?

Really, it’s true.

Rather, there are new combinations and connections between existing ideas that make our creations feel new and innovative.

So, you can let go of struggling with how to create new ideas. Instead, focus on “filling your idea well” when you want to create something.

But, what does this mean?

It means you read, research, explore, and dive into what’s already been created in whatever area you’re interested in.

Austin Kleon wrote a great little book called, Steal Like an Artist, in which he argues this same point ie. there really are no brand new ideas.

In fact, he opens the book with Picasso’s quote, “Art is theft” because…

Creativity is making something new out of what already exists.

Whether you’re plotting out a novel, planning a non-fiction book, staring at the world with your camera in your hand, or even am thinking of making a new quilt or painting, you CAN create original work.

Here’s how:

  1. Jot down your main ideas of what you want to capture/create and brainstorm as many different approaches, perspectives, random thoughts and new ideas as you can. You can use a mindmap for this which is just a big piece of paper with all the ideas. Or, just start listing. Do this by hand.
  2. Once you’ve got your own ideas out of your head, start to look elsewhere for more ideas that will connect to what you’ve already got. Fill your idea well.
    • This might look like researching online, going through books you’ve got on the topic, looking at images for ideas if you’re working on something visual and looking at value, shape, color etc., playing on Pinterest, or thinking about different stories or topics you’ve read/studied that relate.
    • This step is HUGE for generating ideas. It’s the “steal like an artist” step. You’re basically seeing what else is out there and making connections to what you already know, a standard practice in creative thinking.
  3. Go back to your own list or mindmap and start adding, connecting, dreaming as you research.
  4. Integration/Compost time – next, let it sit. Sleep on it. Go on a walk. Meditate. Take a long shower.
    • This is the mind-wandering step where your mind is making connections, putting things together. The trick is remembering to stop doing and give your mind the “blank” space to do what it does best once you’ve given it all the new fun ideas to play with!
    • Take your time here.
    • Or….for you fellow verbal processors…talk it out. You can talk it out with a trusted friend OR yourself! Yep, I spend LOTS of walks, runs, and bike rides happily talking to myself. (And if you’re like me, this is one reason to LOVE wearing a mask in public, nobody can see me having a happy little convo with myself!).

See what connections you can make as you speak through your ideas.

  1. Finally, capture the new connections as they come. You can do this with a notebook, a note app on your phone, or even a voice app on your phone which is what I use.

I LOVE an app called Voxer. It’s like a walkie talkie app. I use it with clients AND for myself. If I’m on a walk, I can talk into it to capture m ideas which I can then transcribe automatically if I “play” my recording for the app on my laptop which is a free transcription app.

In fact, I shared this strategy with my 23-year-old daughter and she said she and her boyfriend have both started using this app to capture ideas/thoughts as they come up. It works!

Connecting LOTS of different ideas IS creativity and creative thinking. You’ll combine them in ways that are completely unique TO you.

So don’t be afraid to look at what’s already been done. Of course, you don’t want to copy stuff outright or plagiarize, but for sure filter through what’s out there.

Decide what you like, what you connect with, what you can take and improve or tweak or change and make better or unique and combine with other ideas you’ve got or have already created.

That’s being creative.

That’s creating.

Have fun with this, and don’t be afraid of starting with other ideas that are already out there.



Leave a Comment