Creative Challenge II: Brainstorming

Welcome to the second installment of “The Creative Challenge,” a series on overcoming creative roadblocks.

The Problem

Brainstorming is a very popular way of coming up with a new idea. However, I’ve realized that participants are often too critical of thoughts and ideas too early in the process, which can potentially prevent a wonderful idea from coming to fruition.

The Solution

All sorts of ideas come out in a brainstorming session. The point isn’t to come up with a solution right then and there, it’s just to throw ideas out on the table, no matter how silly or strange they might sound at the time. Those ideas lead to other ideas, and can help get your thoughts out so you can play “connect the dots” with them.

When I brainstorm, I like to grab a huge sheet of easel paper, or at least a large sheet of drawing paper, to write all my ideas down on. I like a big piece of paper because it allows me to see my thoughts, draw lines between them, highlight, circle, etc… Also, I can formulate a thought, write it down so I don’t forget it later, and move on without trying to use up brain power retaining that thought. Then later on I can go back and re-read everything I wrote down, organizing as I go. White boards and Smart Boards can work well for this too. I try to stay away from using a computer for my brainstorming (until the later stages) because I think computers can stifle pure creativity. That’s just me; maybe you work better on a computer. At any rate, find a solution that works for you and use it whenever you need to come up with a new idea.

Once I’ve gotten my ideas down on paper, I take some time off of it to refresh my brain. Sometimes I’ll come back to it in a few hours, sometimes in a few days. It all depends on my timeline. I’ll then start sorting through my thoughts that I’ve written down and try to formulate a solid idea from it. I might start using a computer to track some of my progress at this point. As soon as I have settled on an idea, or maybe a few different ideas, I’ll formulate a plan of attack and execute the plan.

Now, let me apply this to field recording. When I’m designing a sound, there are many times that I need some inspiration. Maybe I need an organic element that’s missing, but I don’t know what it is. So I’ll start my process, figuring out what new sound I might be able to go out and record to bring my design to life. Or maybe I know I want to go out and record, but I don’t know what to record. Again, pull out the big sheet of paper and start writing. Maybe I’ll write down locations, then break down things at each location and try to think of what is unique at each one. Maybe I’ll start writing down random objects in my house and start drawing lines between them to come up with some strange combination of things to record together. Sometimes it’s just allowing yourself to think outside the box that can bring out true inspiration.

The Challenge

Grab a big sheet of paper, or a whiteboard, and start writing down your thoughts freely. Don’t come up with something and say “that’s a stupid idea” and not write it down. If it comes into your mind, write it down. You’ll be sorting through them later. You can circle things, use different colors, highlight things, draw lines between things – anything is game. Once you’re done, take a break (for at least a few hours) and come back to your list. Sort through what you’ve written down and see if anything pops out to you. When something does, formulate a solid idea. Next, simply plan it out, and then execute. For example, if my final idea that I settled on was that I needed to go capture the sound of large rock being thrown into a pond at night, then I would make plans to go record it, then do it!

Good Luck!