It’s every creative professional’s worst nightmare: when the ideas just won’t come. You stare at a blank computer screen and every time that cursor blinks, you’re one second closer to the deadline…and you’ve got nothing. Zip. Nada. Squat.

When I get in this funk, I’m a big fan of letting the Universe do a little of the creative “heavy lifting” by using a word or phrase, chosen at random, as the guide to my problem-solving. It’s not a new idea, but I first read about it in Roger Von Oech’s book “A Whack on the Side of the Head.” (If you haven’t read his series of books, you should. They’re very quick reads and have been tools I’ve gone back to over and over again for inspiration. Check him out.) Here are his thoughts on the subject:

“There once was an Indian medicine man who made hunting maps for his tribe. When game got sparse, he’d put a piece of fresh leather in the sun to dry. Then he’d say a few prayers, fold and twist it, and then smooth it out. The rawhide was now etched with lines. He marked some reference points, and a new map was created. When the hunters followed the map’s newly defined trails, they usually discovered abundant game. Moral: by letting the rawhide’s random folds represent trails, he pointed the hunters to places they had not looked.

“Stimulate your thinking in a similar way. Open a dictionary or any book and pick a word at random. How does it relate to what you’re doing? What associations can you make? How does it shed light on what you are currently doing. What patterns can you find? Look out the window and find the first thing that has “red” in it. Open a magazine and find the 8th full page ad from the front. What is its product? How does it relate to your problem? Remember: open your mind up to things that have no connection with you are currently doing.”

So the next time you are stuck, try drawing parallels between your problem and something that, on the surface, is random and unrelated. And here’s a tool to help you find that something “random”.


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