The Creativity Question: Building Up to Ask More

by Teryl Cartwright

“From where do you get your ideas?” When I’m asked this, it’s easy. I am a lifelong learner, a philomath. I store up ideas like coins you empty from your pockets and the cupholder of your car or find in the parking lot. I am a collector and trader!

Finding ideas isn’t hard. You can ask others, look online, and even spot some in a story. Sometimes I’ll see them in other fields and get inspired, like fast food restaurants adopting car manufacturing techniques, or farmers using airports to grow crops. Once you know where you get your ideas and attribute rather than steal them, you can go to the source. You might collaborate or branch out, but for a start, you have a base to build.

From where do you get your ideas?

Sometimes I reverse the search to find them. I take something I’m already very familiar with and interested in and see how others have made new or unusual ideas out of it. I love origami so it is helpful for me to see how it has been adapted to satellite solar arrays, medicinal stents, and even to make kayaks.

We want to question our creative thinking and add new layers, so why not ask, “How do you get your good ideas?” This answer takes more serious play. It requires testing and choosing ideas, and not always stopping when you have what seems the “best one.”

Good ideas are often more than adopting an idea from somewhere else; they require adapting them to our needs and perspective. We are used to combining two ideas to get a new thing such as a pencil with an eraser, but can you combine three things for something more? While a pen that has a highlighter at the other end is novel, why not make a multiple color ink pen that includes one cartridge of white correction fluid to change the way we erase our mistakes?

Take a moment to try this. Pick something, a product, a story, a picture, and add more than one thing to adapt it. How many variations can you make? Can you adapt questions by adding more to them too?

How do you get your good ideas?

A lot of times I take ideas to the extreme and then back. For instance, I was fascinated with the $8 air conditioners that included a fan, Styrofoam container, dryer vents, and ice. I thought it is great thing for those who have electricity. But I wondered how to make it even more portable for those who are homeless or live in their cars, so I froze an individual Gatorade bottle (something to drink once it melted) and hooked up a tiny motor with a fan to an AA battery. It all fits in an oatmeal container with holes. I even explored the way you can make a solar panel out of old
CDs, but the two CDs I tried to use as a replacement for my battery didn’t work. To answer my own question for me: You get your good ideas by getting to work on promising ones until you find the right combination. You add and take away.

Just like the Marvel movie though, “I’ll do you one better.” Instead of asking, “Why is Gamora?” you might ask, “Why this idea?” Anything you invest your time and care into often needs to have purpose. Of course, it can be a fun exercise, something to improve on creatively. It can be to help others if they want your help. It can be curiosity, adventure, even a craft that you fold and open your mind to make. God has given us many options!

Simon Sinek says if you know your why, you know your how. I believe if you know who you are creative for, the why and the how and the where fall into place. That’s why I saved the best for last. So that you could go back and answer all the other questions again after this.

I’ll ask and let you answer: Who are you creative for?