Ideating and Creating: 7 Tips to Inspire the Maker in You

By Casey Martin

Photo by Emma Kanchanawat

Coming up with an idea, bringing it to life, sharing it, and learning from it — this is the cycle of the maker. But what really goes into all that? Grab a stack of sticky notes and your most dashing thinking cap, because we are about to break down the whole process.

Whether you are flying solo or working with a group to dream up the next big idea, here are 7 things I learned at Scout’s 2nd annual make-a-thon and on my design journey thus far — written with the hope to inspire the maker in you.

1. Make some space! Make some time! It’ll be worth it.

Before you can even start the ideation and creation process, you have to be willing to allow a place for it in your life. Okay, that got deep really quickly, but it’s true. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of a busy lifestyle. It’s much harder to allow yourself the time and space to devote only to creativity and the vulnerability of your own thoughts. But if you set aside some time in your schedule, and designate a place for some good think sessions, my friends — the ideas will surely come.

Need more direction than that? Look around for a make-a-thon/hack-a-thon! A wonderfully predetermined time and space just for making.

2. Set goals (but be open).

Now that you’re in the zone, it might be helpful to set some goals for yourself. What problem are you trying to solve today? What story do you want to tell? How do you want to deliver your message? Establishing some parameters gives you a sense of direction and somewhere to start, but just remember that you don’t necessarily have to stick with them for the whole process. Be open-minded to exploring different paths and to turning an idea completely upside down!

Photo by Emma Kanchanawat

3. Draw it! Write it! Build it!

By now you’ve got fragments of concepts, eureka thoughts, and visualizations all floating around in your head. It’s time to wrangle them up and get those ideas out into the universe! Now’s your chance to use any materials you have to start fleshing out your thoughts. Start off with some sticky notes (this is not a post-it ad, sticky notes are truly at the cornerstone of any ideation session), or maybe you prefer a notebook. Jot down any ideas, phrases, drawings, questions, answers — whatever is in your head. Maybe the best way to think through your idea is to start building something! It doesn’t have to be flashy, it just needs to get your ideas into motion. No matter what method you choose, the important part is making sure that all those thoughts are transferred to a tangible medium, so no idea is left behind.

4. Be nice to your ideas.

This might be the hardest thing. We all have that little voice in our head that makes us doubt our thoughts or self-scrutinize. Ignore the voice! It’s impossible to identify which ideas will really take off if they all don’t have ~equal opportunity~ to grow. Take note of every thought, no matter how seemingly trivial or far-fetched. Let your brainstorm be as free flowing and unbridled as possible — stopping yourself limits the organic thought process that leads from a good idea to the next great one.

5. Be nice to other people’s ideas.

When you are in a collaborative group ideation setting, fostering a supportive environment where everyone feels encouraged to contribute is an essential step in the creation process. It can sometimes be the deciding factor between making something earth-shattering or getting absolutely nowhere. Communication is key in small group dynamics. Be sure to contribute to the conversation with your own thoughts, but also listen to what your teammates have to say, and make sure to react and acknowledge every idea that is put out there in some way. The more there is to discuss, the more there is to explore and create!

Photo by Emma Kanchanawat

6. Share your ideas! Bounce ’em off every wall.

Whether you are starting to adopt a group mentality, or are just becoming too consumed in your own thoughts, getting feedback from an outside party is always a game changer. Pitching your idea to others is a great way to 1) hear yourself from a new presentational standpoint, 2) get some crit’ on things you might have never considered before, or 3) find inspiration to pivot your idea in a completely different direction. Getting out of your own bubble allows room for growth so your creation is the best it can be.

7. Channel your passion for meaningful making!

At the end of the day, remember why you are a maker. Maybe you are creating for a greater good; to serve a community, to solve a problem, to help a friend. Maybe you are creating for your own well-being; to grow, to heal, to learn, to enjoy. Or maybe you’re just creating for the sake of creating. All are good reasons. Keep your reason in mind, and let it shine through in your ideas. The best ideas are ideas you care about! Ideas that get you fired up! Ideas that make you want to keep on making!

Enough from me. Now go and create! After all, life is just one big make-a-thon, and the world is full of makers — with post-it-note-signposts pointing us all forward on our own paths.

Side note: Recycle your sticky notes to achieve ULTIMATE maker status.

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