No matter how long you stare at that blank page, it’s not going to magically give you that perfect idea you need. However, if you’re hitting a creative block, try combining two generic (or bad!) ideas together to see how you can recombine them.
Photo by Juhan Sonin.
Cartoon Editor for The New Yorker, Bob Mankoff, explains this concept of combining other ideas to create new ones as “idea sex.” It’s as straightforward as it is graphic: take two concepts, regardless of whether they belong together, and see what you can make out of it. The exercise in itself can help get your creative juices flowing:
“Ideas breed ideas,” he says. “The classic technique is by putting things together that don’t go together,” he says. He begins riffing, offering a potential cartoon setting: heaven. It has clouds, a gate, and Saint Peter. It’s a place people want to get into, but it’s hard to get into. Maybe Mankoff will do heaven as a nightclub with a bouncer? “Or heaven has barbed wire on top to keep out the undocumented angels,” continues Mankoff. “Or there is an easy pass lane into heaven and people are flying through.”
In fact, staring at a blank page is pretty much the worst thing you can do. If you’re writing, try imagining two characters that don’t belong. If you’re designing, pick a colour or two and see how you can combine them to make an attractive image. The goal is to stop waiting for inspiration to strike and start mixing ideas until a brilliant one shows itself.