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Brainstorming Solo

Monday, August 31, 2009

By Mindy Charski

What’s one asset a novelist, software developer and business consultant each need to keep their ventures thriving? Creativity. It’s a necessary ingredient for your company, too.

We all know being creative isn’t easy, and it can be especially challenging for folks who work in home offices with nary a brainstorming partner nearby. Here are five tips for sparking creativity even when you work alone.

1. Go play
Recharge your mind with short activities you enjoy like walking, gardening or painting. Your brain “will go places, and things will pop up that wouldn’t if you were sitting at your desk trying so hard,” says Lynn Wyvill, a business creativity coach in Arlington, Va.

Think of such play as an investment. “If you can walk away, literally, and come back refreshed . . . then that time that you’re working will be much more productive,” Wyvill says.

2. Use Google
Typing terms into Google that are unrelated to a particular problem is a way to generate ideas, says Roger Firestien, president of Innovation Resources Inc., a creativity consultancy in Buffalo, N.Y.

For example, if you’re thinking of ways to attract more clients and type “barn door” into the search engine, the results could trigger ideas like, “hold a barn dance for clients;” “paint your brochures red;” or “let’s have animals at the event,” he says.

It’s fine if some thoughts are wacky. “You take those ridiculous ideas and you make them better,” says Firestien, whose books include “Leading on the Creative Edge” (Innovation Resources Inc., 2004).

3. Obey your creative rhythms
Reserve creative thinking for times of day when you work best. Kate Lister, co-author of “Undress For Success: The Naked Truth About Making Money at Home” (John Wiley & Sons, 2009), has found she works best between 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.

“I would try to get my creative work done in the morning, but I was always fighting an uphill battle,” she says. Now Lister chooses early-day duties that are less creative, like answering e-mails.

4. Keep a journal
Writing down ideas makes room for others to pop up, says Ian Summers, a creative coach in Easton, Pa.

“I really believe that creativity is part of a flow,” Summers says. “If we’re holding onto something, we can’t flow.”

Record thoughts about a specific problem or let your mind roam.

“If I’m on task all the time and I don’t get to wander in the wilderness a little bit, I have nothing I’m going to bring back to [the task],” Summers says. “It’s likely my thoughts will be repetitive.”

5. Get comfortable

“The key is to find a place where you like to be,” says Firestien.
The home office he likes to work in is full of books and offers views of birds and an entertaining groundhog.

Color can offer comfort, too.

“I think most people know what colors they respond to most,” says creative coach Summers. “You can go to a book and find the meaning of colors or go to a paint store and pick a color you like.” 

Mindy Charski is a freelance writer who enjoys bursts of creativity while swimming laps under a blue Dallas sky.


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