Thursday, August 30, 2012

How to come up with an idea

I just read a book my friend, the awesome Sherry Scharschmidt, recommended.  It’s called ‘Steal Like An Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative.’ 

One thing the book said to do is share your secrets.  So here are mine for coming up with ideas. I hope they help.

Concept in the morning, when your mind is still uncluttered. 

Go for a train ride. Motion stimulates ideas. 

Open the Yellow Pages, if you can find one.  Point your finger to a random page.

When I was a junior copywriter starting at Leo Burnett, a writer I really respected left the agency.  I found a little Post-It note on his wall that said ‘Expect the Unexpected.’  I think that’s a good reminder when thinking of ideas. 

Finish the brief with "so ----- ----- ----- ."  For example, let’s say the brief is "Cracklin’ Oat Bran is incredibly ugly-looking, yet somehow tastes great."  So you come up with a TV spot that basically finishes that thought with "so a lobster can empathize with Cracklin’ Oat Bran’s plight."  And you write a script about a lobster talking about how misunderstood he is.  A writer that worked for me had this idea, and it was great.  (The client hated it. Great strategy too.) 

Throw away the brief and think what you would want to watch, or read, or click on.

And finally: drink enough to be hung over the next day.  That day, you’ll have a lot of ideas.  I rarely do this and don’t recommend it, but it never fails.  I think it has something to do with a lack of self-editing.  This is not good for your health.  But it’s good for your ideas. 


Patrick Scullin said...

Great advice, I will have to try your suggestions instead of stealing your work and taking credit for it.

That's how I steal like an artist.

Thanks, GD.

Anonymous said...

Gary, great stuff as always. Here are a few that help me.

1) Keep a notebook by your bed. Ideas that appear at 1:55 a.m. keep you awake for a while. But they seldom re-appear at 7:00 a.m. when you wake up again.

2)Don't be afraid to turn everything off. Including yourself. No TV. No phone. No chat. No internet. Just sit in a room alone and listen to the quiet. Ideas love to whisper to you when you are trying to enjoy the quiet.

3) Get mad at something. Or watch a movie that makes you laugh hard. Or cry hard. Call your mom and tell her that you love her and mean it. Or teach your 18-month-old grandkid to hop like Bluto sneaking around in Animal House. Once feelings are flowing, ideas aren't far behind.

4) Sucker-punch a midget. Never fails. (if memory serves, I learned that from you.)

- Down-state gray bearded guy

G.D. said...


When you were stealing my ideas, is that when you left notes on my chair from the Powers That Be?


By sucker-punching a midget, do you mean Bert Bentkover?

Anonymous said...

That name is mighty familiar. I just meant it as a general "do something horrible" thought. This might be something me and Freud may have to work out to decide if it was a specific reference.

Clint said...

I always call Joe Biden. He is more creative than the chair.

Barry Big Ears said...

I do weed and coke. My man brings it in from the island. Helps gear me up for golf and executive decrees.

23 Million People said...

Please no more ideas Gary. Your last one is killing us.

Anonymous said...

Sucker punching a midget? How abut a mental and moral midget, which would be our Leader. The guys with Dumbo Ears. Who had Bill Ayers write his autobiography. At least all the parts with big words. So he could hang out in the Chicago bathhouses. He likes bubble bath. He blows bubbles and more.

Thomas Dewey said...

Quit your real job and become a Chicago public school teacher. You get great at for 9 months of 7 hours per day, 6% annual increases, plus step increases. Plus a pension of about $100,000 per with with cost of living adjustments guaranteed, starting when you are 55. And it doesn't matter if the kids learn anything from you. Ad you can take sick days whenever you want. If you don't use your 20 annual sick days you can sell them to the school district when you retire for a couple of hundred thousand dollars extra. Now that is an idea.

Anonymous said...

Help GD get Obama reelected. That is an idea. Now that we know that Obama will order Generals (who are evil when Republicans are in charge) to telephone movie directors and order them to stop making movies. Maybe he could have the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff call Woody Allen and order him to make his old really funny movies. Wait, Woody Allen is a Jew, and Obama has this thing about Jews. Plus, a Jew movie might upset some people in Egypt. Anyway, let's help Gary get Obama re-elected so we can have the military take charge of the movie industry. Gary - new slogan idea. "Reshoot that scene or I Kill You". What do you think? Go Obama. Vote For Change So We Can Have Complete World Peace. (Did they really gang-sodomize Chris Stevens, ambassador because he was gay?).

Anonymous said...

GD -I remember you had a brilliant post on the day Obama personally killed bin Laden. What was that again? Can't remember the exact phrasing, but I seem to recall a modest statement about how the Middle East was now all fixed and peaceful. You are such an amazing visionary, the way you see the truth immediately. Like with the iPad.

Sarah Palin said...

A brilliant manger is able to spot a good idea and also a not so good idea. "'If four Americans get killed, it's not OPTIMAL'

It is important to find and retain leaders who have this sort of keen insight.

Barack "Letterman, Comedy Central" Obama said...

Here's my best idea. All of my public statements should be made on Comedy Central. That is the only appropriate venue for my thoughts.