Open the Idea Bank – Generating Ideas by the Hundreds
As a freelance journalist, I’ve come to realize that while articles are my final product, my main business is selling ideas. Most publications have staff writers to cover obvious day-to-day happenings, what makes a quality freelancer whether you show up with good ideas.
The problem is that far too often I’m stuck with no ideas at all. No ideas means no money. Hence, I’m always interesting in new brainstorming techniques.
Recently a post on Litemind by Luciano Passuello really caught my eye. The gist of is to solve a problem by sitting down and writing out a list of 100 solution ideas. In one sitting! The purpose is to combine stream-of-consciousness writing with a list – I guess you could call it “ordered stream-of-consciousness.”
It sounds insane, but hey, I like insane. So with a freshly brewed pot of coffee at my side, I sat down to give it a try and began pounding out “100 Article Ideas for FreelanceSwitch.”
#1. Generating ideas by the hundreds
The first entry was easy enough, I’d already planned to write about the results of this exercise. The next couple popped out pretty quickly as well. Then I got to the fifth entry and was stumped for the first time. But I was determined to see this experiment through to the end. That’s when I reminded myself that this exercise isn’t necessarily about getting 100 good ideas. It’s about letting ideas flow. So, I started to type with reckless abandon, knowing I wouldn’t have to write all of these.
According to Passuello’s post, the first 30 items are supposed to be easy though I was worried since I was already seeing some clunkers in there.
#25. What I learned about freelancing from my cats
Sure, title sounds good, but after glancing across the room to notice my kitty learning the painful lesson that her tail is in fact, not edible, I did wonder if the article would match up.
Still, I soldiered on, trying to let my subconscious take over, to just write whatever came to mind and move on to the next line as quickly as possible. Eventually I noticed something: as the number got higher, I was feeling better about myself. I was getting into a state of flow.
#41. Using benchmarks as motivation (Hey! I’m at 41 already!)
About an hour and a half later, I’d hit #99 and felt a massive endorphin rush! I’d completed a challenge. Once #100 was written, it was time to go back over the list. This worried me. What if this was a waste of time and none of these were usable? One hundred bad ideas are just as bad as no ideas.
#79. Why motivational posters are stupid
According to Passuello the gems are going to be in the final 30. After seeing #79 (to which my inner critic screamed “that’s a statement! not an idea!”) I wasn’t so sure.
Combing through the list, though, there were some very workable ideas. Using the virtual highlighter feature, I noted the ones to work on in the near future.
#100. How to write a conclusion
Alright, that wasn’t actually #100, but I wanted to stick with the headline theme.
The “List of 100″ method didn’t exactly work out as Passuello described and I found I had to hunt through and distill in order to get a list of usable articles. That said, there’s enough good stuff that I’m left with a strong ideas bank to draw on.
I’d like to add that the “ordered list” feature in most word processors (you know, the one that automatically adds a number at the beginning of each line) actually came in handy for once. Normally I find this feature intrusive and annoying in programs like Word that have it turned on by default but in this instance my motivation may not have survived typing numbers at every line.
Now, let me see, what has my cat taught me about freelancing?