You don't have to be young to think young. That's one of the points Ian Wharton makes in his book, Spark for the Fire.
In the Foreword, Wharton's boss at advertising agency AKQA, Ajaz Ahmed, mentions how we lose that spirit: "One of the many great gifts of being young is that we think we can achieve anything. The only problem is that such a gift can be fragile: sometimes when we share our dreams with certain kinds of people--teachers, bosses, others in authority-–their reactions suffocate our imagination and kill the creative spirit."
Wharton says of turning your creative ideas into reality, "It’s not always rewarding or fun, and sometimes the clock turning to 3am is much more noticeable. But you battle through. Every individual who simply can’t imagine not making things – the people who want to inspire others, make great things and be respected for them – are the ones who will shape much of the future. And there are plenty of challenges that need solving."
Most of the book is made up of interviews with six creative individuals, including chef Jamie Oliver, branding guru Michael Wolff, and CEO of IDEO, Tim Brown.
What's the secret of thinking young when you've stopped or at least slowed down letting your creativity lead you?
One that Wharton points out is "creativity favors intuition." If you have the feeling that something is worth doing even though you have no idea how to do it, put aside the usual flood of doubts designed to dissuade you.
WHAT STOPS US
We tend to jump right to logical questions like "How can I do it?" "Who do I have to get involved?" "How long will it take?" "Will it be expensive?" "Has anybody else done it before?" And the grandaddy: "What if it fails?!"
A DIFFERENT FOCUS
It's not that we don't have to face those questions at some point, but we don't have to face them all at the same time.
When we do face them, it helps to reframe them more positively. If money is an issue, and usually it is, instead of asking "How expensive will be be?" and stopping if the answer is, "Very!" ask "How could I do this for the amount of money available?"
Your first impulse may be to answer, "It can't be done!" If so, follow up with another of my favorite questions: "Yes, but what if it could? What would that look like?"
One of the interviewees, ad man Rory Sutherland, says, "The problem here is that every great new idea, every new challenge, every opportunity can seem ridiculous, illogical, out of place. All too often we are quick to disregard great ideas or new ventures before they gain any momentum, largely because we haven’t seen or heard of them before."
The next time you have an interesting idea, put logic on hold. Take a moment to go back to a time when you were young enough not to know how many obstacles await. Explore the idea with that youthful energy before you decide whether or not to proceed.
A PRACTICAL METHOD
Put out three chairs. Assign one chair to the Experienced Adult, another to the Excited Youngster, and the third to an Observer. Sit in the Youngster's chair and in your imagination talk about the idea that has excited you...what you hope it will achieve, the enjoyment of bringing it to reality, etc. Allow yourself to feel the emotions.
Then move to the Experienced Adult's chair and if that part of you thinks this isn't a good idea, express ONE objection (only one!).
Return to the Excited Youngster's chair and rebut the argument--but with ideas for how you might overcome that objection.
From time to time, move to the Observer's chair and taken notes on the most useful ideas that have come up. Then continue the exchange.
AN EXAMPLE OF THE TWO-CHAIRS METHOD
Here are a few sample exchanges from an idea I'm considering:
Excited Youngster: "I want to make a comedy feature film! I have this idea about a kid who finds out he's adopted and he goes in search of his birth mother, but there's no record anywhere of his birth and he begins to suspect he's actually from another planet."
Experienced Adult: "Feature film? Even a low-budget feature film costs a lot of money! We don't have money to spare right now, certainly not the amount it would take to make a feature film, especially anything to do with aliens! Those films require expensive special effects!"
Excited Youngster: "Not necessarily. Some guy shot a feature film with his iPhone! I'm not talking about going head-to-head with Batman or anything. I'm thinking digital. We have a videocamera. The alien stuff could all be in his imagination! It could be done with animation--not PIxar 3D or anything, more like the old Monty Python animations were done. That would make it funnier."
The Observer writes down the basic idea and that animation could be used for the alien scenes the protagonist imagines.
Experienced Adult: OK, fine, but what about actors?
Excited Youngster: There are loads of good actors who just want to work! I've read about lots of films where they got even some famous actors to do a role or at least a cameo because they liked the project and the filmmaker! And there are drama schools--lots of people there probably want to work to get experience and credits."
(note: it's not the intention that the Experienced Adult is the bad person here. Not every idea the Youngster gets excited about is a good one. At some point The Experienced Adult may start to make suggestions as well, or his or her questions may point to real flaws in the idea.)
Experienced Adult: Hmmm, there are some interesting ideas there. What about making it, or part of it, as a short film first, to get experience and test the idea? Kind of proof of concept?
Excited Youngster: Yeah, that would take a lot less time. It could be a way to raise money for a feature version, too.
You can do this over several sessions to get the maximum number of ideas and a sense of whether to proceed with the project. Even if you decide not to, be sure to save the ideas the Observer noted because they might be useful for another project.
(If you want to rekindle your creativity, get a copy of my book, Creativity Now, published by Pearson and available from Amazon or your other favorite bookseller.)