I believe creativity is our greatest untapped resource.

I created this website in the hope that it will help you tap into your own creativity, to discover the treasure that lives inside of you and show you that you have the skills to bring that treasure out into the world.

One of my favorite places in the world is Walt Disney World in central Florida. Walt Disney (and his group of talented Imagineers) are shining examples of creative individuals who had the courage, curiosity, dreams, imagination, passion, perceptiveness, playfulness, reflectiveness, tenacity and trust they needed to create pure magic out of a Florida swamp.

We can't all create theme parks from swampland, but we can all create what we have inside of us. I believe we all have our own gifts and it is our responsibility to share them with the world. What if Gandhi hadn't had the courage of his convictions, what if Einstein hadn't imagined riding on a beam of light, what if - Hogwarts forbid! - J.K. Rowling wasn't tenacious enough to write all seven Harry Potter books?

You have a masterpiece inside you, too, you know. One unlike any that has ever been created, or ever will be. And remember: If you go to your grave without painting your masterpiece, it will not get painted. No one else can paint it. Only you. ~ Gordon MacKenzie, Orbiting the Giant Hairball

Only you.

What are you waiting for? ;)


When asked how to create, artist Jasper Johns said:

It's simple, you just take something and do something to it, and then do
something else to it. Keep doing this and pretty soon you've got something.

Creativity really is just about as simple as Johns describes it.

But let's start with the technical explanation (for those who like the technical explanations first). The creative process involves two types of thinking – analytical thinking (left-brained, focused, conscious) and intuitive thinking (right-brained, diffuse, shadowy). Analytical thinking is based on analysis: taking things apart in order to understand them. Intuitive thinking is based on synthesis: putting things together to form new things that bring new understanding.  As the brain shifts back and forth between these modes of thinking, steps or stages in the process of creativity are created. In these stages, the creating brain goes from active to receptive, from deliberate to contemplative. And then it goes back again, shifting back and forth over and over, sometimes so fast we don't even notice. It's a cycle of work and rest, doing and being - a sort of yin and yang of creativity.

Over the years, scholars of creativity knowledge (known affectionately in psychology circles as SOCKs) have listed and described the stages of the creative process. They have given them wonderfully scholarly names such as first insight, saturation, concentration, incubation, illumination and verification.

If Jasper Johns were to describe these stages (in his non-technical, SOCKless sort of way), he would probably say something like:

It's simple, you get an idea about something, you gather a bunch of somethings, you do something to those somethings, you leave everything alone for a while, then pretty soon you've got something and then you do something with it.

It comes down to this: something inspires you, you gather a bunch of stuff, you mess about with that stuff, you leave the stuff for awhile, a brilliant idea comes to you seemingly from out of nowhere (but really from all the stuff that you left simmering) and then you bring that idea into the world. See – it really is pretty simple.

I (SOCKless like Johns) call these stages:
  • the spark
  • collect
  • tinker
  • pregnant pause
  • the aha!
  • act

Although we humans divide the creative process into stages (we humans like to organize stuff that way), it really is not a strictly linear affair. Stages often overlap or occur simultaneously. Thoughts and ideas can circle back and repeat through a number of iterations of any particular stage or stages of the process. When working on a complex problem or project, there may be multiple threads of the process occurring at once, and the interweaving of these threads allows even more ideas and connections to occur.

Creativity is more like interconnected loops than discrete steps, but it is still useful to think of the process in terms of stages. It helps us to understand the steps we creative people take to get from point 0 (nothing) to point S (something). It is also important to know some of the useful things that we can take with us on our creative journey. So that is what we are going to do on this web site – explore the journey that is the creative process and learn about some useful things to take along for the trip.

So are you ready to venture out and do a little exploring on creativity? Good. Take my hand, here we go, one, two, three – JUMP!

The process

Creativity is often perceived as a mysterious, enigmatic process. It is seen as mystical or magical, something that happens if you are lucky or somehow favored by the Muses. Most people seem to think creativity is a talent given only to a privileged few and that they are not among the chosen.

That is simply not true.

We are all creative. And while some of us may naturally be more creative than others, all of us can learn to be more creative than we are right now. Just like any other skill, we can increase our creativity through training and encouragement. It all begins with understanding the types of thinking involved in creativity (which we discussed in the introduction) and how they apply to the different stages of the creative process.

So let's explore the stages of the creative process.

The Spark

The first stage of the creative process is the spark. The spark is what gets the process started, not unlike the spark that lights a fire.

The spark provides the motivation and the energy for the rest of the process; it is the foundation and the starting point. The spark can also be looked at as a seed, a seed from which everything else will grow.

The spark involves both problem solving (finding a solution to an existing problem) and problem finding (seeking out and discovering problems that have gone unnoticed).

Both types of thinking are involved in generating the spark. The analytical mode is involved in recognizing existing problems as well as in formulating and asking questions to ferret out hidden ones. The intuitive mode also works on both problem solving and problem finding, but it picks up on subtler problems and questions that the analytical mode might miss. The intuitive mind also excels at finding and recognizing the patterns which can help precipitate the spark.

Asking questions is essential in all phases of creativity, but it is especially important during the spark phase. The more questions we ask, the more insights and ideas we will be able to generate.

Being curious and open to things around you greatly increases your chances of finding problems and solutions. New insights can be triggered by things directly related to your field or topic as well as things that are unrelated. Often the stimulus to an idea is some unexplained detail or a puzzling incongruity. Those odd little peculiarities that go unnoticed by others can provide open minds with seeds for innovation and discovery. One of the classic examples of this is Alexander Fleming's discovery of penicillin.

So pay attention, ask questions, be curious and watch the sparks fly!


Collecting involves immersing yourself in your subject and accumulating thoughts, ideas, images, materials, data and words - anything that may be directly related or seemingly unrelated to your project.

Ideas are basically new combinations of elements, so the more elements (thoughts, ideas, images, material, data and words) you have to work with, the more likely you are to come up with a combination that works. Thomas Edison said, "To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk." The collecting stage is where you collect the pile of junk.

Both the quantity and quality of elements are important: the more stuff you have to work with, the more ideas you will be able to generate and the more unusual and unique that stuff is, the more creative those ideas will be. Think of a kaleidoscope which, when turned, reveals new patterns and relationships. The more pieces of glass you have in the kaleidoscope and the more different they are, the greater the chance you will find a new and beautiful combination.

Collecting occurs on two levels: a broad, general level that is occurring all the time (if your eyes, ears and mind are open) and a narrow, specific focus that you use when researching a particular problem or project.

The two types of exploring are complementary and feed into and off of each other. Exploring on a regular basis insures that there is always a good pile of junk on hand to work with - even before the start of a project. Creative people are the ultimate recyclers; to a creative person, everything is potentially useful. Focused exploring helps concentrate your thoughts on specifics and details.

Both analytical and intuitive thinking play roles in the collecting stage; analytical thinking is used more during project-specific research while intuitive thinking is more suited to ongoing gathering and absorption.

Being open and receptive is a crucial skill in the collecting stage, just as it is during the spark stage at the beginning of the creative process. Open your eyes, open your ears, open your mind. Look, listen, read everything you can. Become a sponge and soak up everything. Feed your mind all the time with all sorts of interesting stuff. You never know when some little half-forgotten piece of something will be just what you need.


After you have collected enough ideas, images and other materials to saturate your brain, you then start tinkering around with them, seeing if you can make new ideas, images or things. You think about your idea, play with it in your mind and connect it with the things you have been collecting (as well as connecting those things with each other). You examine things from all sides, shift your perspective to get different views, take things apart and put them back together but in new ways. Carl Jung was referring to the tinkering stage (whether he knew it or not) when he said, "The creative mind plays with the objects it loves."

Tinkering primarily involves analytical thinking; you are, for the most part, messing about with ideas and concepts consciously. Underneath the conscious mind, however, the intuitive mind is making connections and noticing patterns that the conscious mind is not able to see.

It is important to keep your mind open and receptive during this stage. In order to do so, you must overcome two challenges: routine thinking (thinking about things in the same way all the time) and self-censorship (judging thoughts and ideas before they even see the light of day). Doing things differently and doing different things can help overcome the first challenge. The second challenge is often more difficult; it involves recognizing self-censorship and challenging its negative advice. One way to keep this negative voice of judgment at bay is emphasize the play aspect of the process by telling yourself that you are "just fooling around."

You continue playing with concepts (or images or words), rearranging and combining them, but eventually you realize you cannot seem to generate the idea or solution you are seeking. At this point, you give up in frustration, or at least your conscious mind does, and you are ready to enter the next stage – the pregnant pause.

The Pregnant Pause

During the pregnant pause (a.k.a. incubation) the mind, full of the necessary raw materials, continues to work on the problem underground. The pregnant pause can be compared to the growth of a plant's roots; you may not see much progress, but you know that something is happening underground.

The intuitive mind is the best suited for the incubation stage; it does not censor or judge, which sets ideas free to combine in fresh, original ways. The unconscious mind is a vast storehouse of information that includes many things the conscious mind is unaware of, including deep feelings and sensory imagery. The unconscious it excels at finding patterns within and making connections between different bits of information. And the unconscious mind "knows" in a different way; it doesn't always speak in words, but instead with a sense of rightness, a hunch, a gut feeling that we intuitively know is correct.

The pregnant pause requires that we detach from the problem; rest, relaxation, reverie, exercise or working on an unrelated project are common activities during this stage. Each person has his or her favorite way for creating the mental environment necessary to induce and maintain the incubation phase. Some take long walks or hot baths; others find shaving, listening to music or driving in the country to be helpful.

Activities that get our conscious mind out of the way, either by occupying it with simple tasks or by somehow hushing it, free the unconscious to do its work. Unfortunately, our culture does not support the type of downtime the unconscious needs to do its best work. As Paul McCready, the inventor of the Gossamer Condor (the world's first successful human-powered aircraft) said in The Creative Spirit: "The only big ideas I've ever had have come from daydreaming, but modern life seems intent on keeping people from daydreaming." In order to be creative then, we must find – or make - the time to daydream, the time necessary for incubating our ideas.

There is no point in pausing unless you have already done the collecting and tinkering work which provides the raw material for the unconscious mind to work on; pausing without having gathered materials and messed about with them is simply sloth. Acceptance of the work involved in the early stages of creativity as well as the inevitability of frustration are both necessary in order to continue on with the creative process.

The Aha!

After a period of resting in the pregnant pause, there come the Aha! moment. All of a sudden an idea comes to you as if from out of nowhere! Wow! There it is! The perfect image/solution/theme/word/color/name/idea!

The Aha! is the breakthrough stage of creativity that gets all the attention and the glory. Somehow from all the mass of stuff you have collected and tinkered with a new something is born. The Aha! is the "click" or "flash" of inspiration that culminates all the hard work (and hard rest) that came before. The light comes on and everything is clear and illuminated. You smack your head and say, "YES! That's it!"

The classic example of the Aha! moment is that of the Greek scientist and philosopher Archimedes, who discovered the principles of density and buoyancy while soaking in his bath. In his excitement (so the story goes), he forget to dress before he went running through the streets crying "Eureka!" ("I have found it"). (The moral of this story should be obvious to those who are often inspired in the tub: it's always best to keep a towel nearby.)

The Aha! stage relies solely on intuitive thinking and as such, there is no conscious effort we can expend to "make" it happen, other than that which we put into the previous stages (without which, it is unlikely to occur). The Aha! is almost always the briefest stage of the creative process; while the other stages can take days or months or even years, the Aha! occurs in an instant. The idea appears suddenly and spontaneously, and is often accompanied by feelings of certainty and elation and a sudden compulsion to dance wildly about the room.


Act, the final stage of the creative process, involves translating your insight into a product or action, making it into something useful and valuable to yourself and others.

When you act, you evaluate, edit, market and (everyone's favorite) deal with criticism. You determine if the idea actually solves the problem, if it satisfies the need expressed at the beginning of the project. You take your idea into the real world; you run the tests, prove the theorem, draw up the blueprints, create the prototypes, polish the prose and send it off to a publisher. You present the cruise idea to your spouse, the strategic plan to your boss, the new product to consumers. Acting means making your idea real.

Analytical thinking predominates in this stage; evaluation requires its logical, objective type of processing. Intuitive thinking also plays a part, particularly in interactions involving presenting and selling your idea to others.

The final stage of creativity is vital to the success of any project. Lots of people have ideas, but it is only those with the necessary courage, confidence and perseverance that bring their ideas into the world where they can make a difference.


If you have read the previous page on the creative process, you now understand the types of thinking involved in the creative process (analytical and intuitive) and the stages of the creative process (the spark, collect, tinker, pregnant pause, the aha! and act). That gives us a good start, but there are some other helpful accoutrements.

If we consider the creative process as a journey, the analytical and intuitive thinking would be the modes of transportation, the stages of the process would be the places we encounter along the way and the accoutrements would be the (to paraphrase Winnie the Pooh) "useful stuff to take along."


Creativity requires courage: courage to try new things, courage to risk being wrong (or worse yet, being laughed at); courage to buck the system, break some rules and rattle some cages. It also requires courage to get up every morning and keep working at something that may or may not be going well. Creativity is not always fun, the people around you are not always supportive, things do not always go smoothly. Courage gets you through the criticism and the tough times.

A creative person can never have too much courage; pack as much as you can and save room for the courage which you will gain along the way. For being creative not only requires courage, it builds it as well.


"I don't recall what my first sentence was, but I am sure that it ended in a question mark."  ~ Epiphany Jones

Curiosity is the foundation of creativity. Curiosity gets us exploring, asking questions, traveling down new trails. Curiosity brings wonder and wondering: something amazes us or mesmerizes us and we want to know everything about it, how it works, how it got that way, how we can adapt its adaptations to our creative projects. Curiosity keeps us young and keeps our brains active and fit. Curiosity leads to learning, to connecting, to new ideas and more.

Curiosity is the personification of a perpetual motion machine; one thing leads to another and then another and on and on and on. Walt Disney said:

"We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things - because we're curious. And curiosity keeps leading us down new paths. We're always exploring and experimenting."

Curiosity hides in the nooks and crannies, but fills our lives – and creative works – with all sorts of amazing things. So toss a couple of handfuls of question marks into your bag – and then throw in a few exclamation points just for good measure. And keep moving forward.


Nothing happens unless first a dream. ~ Carl Sandburg

Dreams show us possibilities; they show us what can be. Dreams are the catalysts to creativity. First, you see what can be, then you work to make it so.

Dreamers are visionaries; they are optimists and idealists. Dreamers have faith in their visions and they have faith in themselves - they believe they can create what they see.

A life without dreams is barren and gray; dreams add color, provide focus, give hope. Start by dreaming…and then let your dreams show you how to make them reality.


Soon after the completion of Walt Disney World someone said, "Isn't it too bad Walt Disney didn't live to see this?" I replied, "He did see it—that's why it's here."~ Mike Vance

Imagination allows us to perceive images and concepts in our minds, without needing to actually see them. In fact, in our imaginations, we can see things that we have never seen before, including things that have never even existed.

Everything that is created – from paintings to buildings, elevators to sonatas, cupcakes to ponytails - existed first in someone's imagination. Think about that for a minute; the website you are viewing, the chair you are sitting in, the floor under your feet, the music you are listening to, everything around you exists thanks to imagination. Imagination is a powerful thing indeed, perhaps the most powerful thing there is.

The license plate holder on my car reads, "My other car is my imagination." I can go a fair number of places in my car, but I can go anywhere at all in my imagination. As you can in yours. A distant planet, an ancient city, the other side of the world. Where will your imagination take you today?


Great dancers are not great because of their technique; they are great because of their passion. ~ Martha Graham

Passion fires our creativity. You must love – really love – what you are doing and you must be doing it because you love it. The psychologists call this intrinsic motivation; you do a thing for its own sake, not for external rewards such as praise or paychecks.

Passion energizes us so we can do all the hard work necessary to bring an idea to fruition. It sends us to the library, the keyboard, the patent office. It cheers us on as we struggle to learn all we can about our craft; it keeps us company as we practice our scales, letters, algebraic equations. Passion gets us up and keeps us going.

Passion motivates us to push past boundaries and fears, it keeps us going even when things are bleak or we are blocked. It keeps us believing in our ideas, our stories, our projects even if no one around us does. Passion gets us through the dark nights and gives us all the energy we need to create on sunny days.

Passion gives us a reason for doing what we do. It is the why. Our passion is our purpose.


Perceptiveness helps us collect ideas, recognize patterns, make connections and see in new ways.

The more you perceive, the more you are aware of, the more you take in – consciously and unconsciously - the more raw materials you have to work with. Increasing perceptiveness increases ideas.

Being perceptive helps us see patterns, recognize similarities and differences, notice how things fit together, identify organizing principles and view the big picture. Creativity often involves putting things together in new ways and seeing patterns helps us put things together not only in new ways, but in ways that are meaningful.

Perceptiveness helps us make connections. The ability to see and/or create relationships between seemingly unrelated elements leads to new ideas and elements.

Seeing in new ways involves perceiving with fresh eyes and ears and mind. In making the strange familiar (the use of metaphor and analogy) and making the familiar strange (seeing things in the commonplace that we had not seen before), we increase our ideas and understanding.


Playfulness is an attitude; a way of seeing and being that frees us to tinker with ideas and concepts and images and other fascinating things, while helping us avoid the fears and judgments that can limit creativity.

Playing is pottering and puttering, toying with this and that, trying things on and seeing how they fit – ideas, roles, concepts, themes, colors, sounds. If things don't fit the first time, we keep playing, trying new things, until we find a fit. Play seems random and non-logical, but it allows us to come up with ideas and combinations of things we would not find through normal linear routes.

Play is not at all serious; we are, after all, just playing. This gives us the freedom to go places and do things and think thoughts that our serious adult selves would probably never do.

Playfulness allows us to reinvent ourselves and our world. Remember when you were a kid? A box became a fort or a spaceship; blankets draped over furniture created a cave of wonders. Look around you right now. What could that chair be? What could you do with that bowl, that rock? What if you played around with the bowl and the rock together? And added the chair? And that….and this….and…..


Reflectiveness can be considered a softer version of playfulness. Just as in playfulness, you are playing with ideas, images, problems, turning them over in your mind, looking at them from different angles, making connections. But in reflectiveness, this playing is on a more subtle level. You are absorbed in the details and nuances, the little things that usually go unnoticed, those almost imperceptible differences and similarities that can end up making all the difference. While playing we might jump up and shout, "Oh! Wow! Look at this!" But while reflecting we are more likely to pause and quietly say, "Hmm...now that is interesting."

Reflecting is an ongoing process, running almost constantly in the background. You ponder for awhile, perhaps while taking your morning shower, then put the idea away again. Then later that morning, while taking a walk, you bring the idea to the front of your brain again and play with it a little more after before setting it back aside. And on it goes. It takes time to dig down to the deepest stuff. Sometimes it takes a very long time.

The Ahas! that come from reflecting are more like slight nudges than lightning bolts, but that makes them no less important. Indeed, it is sometimes the smallest things that make the biggest impact.


Since evidence suggests that people often fail to solve problems not because the problems are insoluble but because they give up prematurely, persistence can be seen as one of our greatest allies. ~ Daniel Goleman, Paul Kaufman and Michael Ray, The Creative Spirit

Tenacity can make the difference between a great idea and a mediocre one, between a successful solution and a still-unsolved problem, between success and failure. You simply must persevere, pushing past all sorts of obstacles and fears, if you want to find the best answer/idea/solution.

When generating ideas, either alone or with others, the obvious answers and ideas always come out first. But by sticking with the process, by not settling for an easy answer or a well-worn cliché, by persisting even when you are running out of ideas (especially when you are running out of ideas!), you move past the already-known into the new, past the obvious into the realm of the creative.

To return to our journey metaphor, think about places which are close to home and how they tend to be familiar and comfortable. They are safe (we rarely get lost in our own home town) but there is not much new there either. But when we travel beyond our normal boundaries, especially to a country other than our own, everything is suddenly new and different. The sights and sounds and streets and people and perhaps even the language are all exciting and unusual. We have moved past the already-known into the new. But we would not have arrived there if we weren't willing to travel a fairly long way and endure a certain amount of discomfort to get there.

So stick with things as long as you can. And then stick with them a little longer. Push the idea, push the image, push the solution, push yourself. The best stuff is way out at the edges. Don't give up before you get there.


The essence of creation is not knowing, of moving from the unknown and mysterious to the known and revealed. ~ Don Hahn, Dancing Corndogs in the Night

Trust helps us tolerate the ambiguity inherent in the creative process. Creativity is filled with large chunks of not-knowing, areas of vagueness, unclearness, unsureness. We must trust enough to know everything will come right, even if at the moment we don't know where we are going or if we are even going anywhere at all. We must be able to live and work and create in a fog, when half the answers are hidden and the other half make no sense. Trust keeps our minds steady, keeps us from getting stuck and stopping when it seems there is no clear way to go. Trust says, "I may not know where I am going with this, but I know if I keep going, I will get somewhere," and "I may not have the answer right now but I know there is one and if I keep looking for it, it will appear."

Wandering off the path, taking wrong turns and getting lost are all necessary parts of the creative process. Trust is what keeps us putting one foot in front of the other until we find ourselves in a new place. And trust helps us find our way in that new place as well.


Like anything we want to learn to do well, creativity requires practice. Creativity practice is like doing drills or scales - the work that helps us get to the good stuff. But unlike drills or scales which can seem like drudgery, creativity practice is much more like play than work!

I invite you to try some of my favorites!


An ideabook is simply a place to store your ideas. Big and small, good and bad - you need to write them all down. You never know what might be useful, either for a current project or for one yet to be.

Writing down your ideas does more than just record them - it also primes the pump and lets the muse know you mean business. One idea leads to another and then another and pretty soon they are like rabbits breeding all over the place! It all starts with writing them down.

An ideabook can also act as an encourager on those less-than-creative days. Just thumb through it and marvel at all the wonderful ideas you have had in the past and be reminded just how very creative you really are!

I keep several notebooks going at once - a lined journal for taking notes from my reading, a blank sketchbook for those moments when I get the courage to draw and a gridded book where I write/sketch my ideas. The important thing is to find a book (or books) you love and keep it with you. Always. And use it!!

Got an idea? Write it down!

Mind maps

Mind maps are used to diagram ideas and concepts related to them. Mind maps are useful in generating and organizing ideas.

Mind maps are created intuitively starting with a central idea and branching out from there. They help us see how everything is connected and related to the main topic.

The easiest way to understand mind maps is to look a few (see links on next screen) and then start creating your own. All you need is pen, paper and your imagination!

There are many good mind mapping resources on the Web. Here are a few:

Example of mind maps

Mind mapping software

  • I use XMind but there are lots of different ones out there. Google "mind mapping software" and go from there.

Mini sagas

A mini saga is a story written with exactly 50 words - no more, no less. It is a great example of how limitations can be used to stimulate your creativity. It is also a great exercise in getting to the essence of something!

Here's an example:

Once upon a time there lived a girl who loved to design web sites. She decided that she would like to design web sites full time (instead of working at a boring admin job) so she went back to college and got her Master's. And she lived happily ever after!

I first read about mini sagas in Daniel Pink's book, A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future. You can learn more about them and read more examples (which can be creatively stimulating as well!) by doing a quick search on the Web.

Photo safari

You don't need to go to Africa for a photo safari - your neighborhood will do perfectly! And there's no need to worry about dangerous animals, because on this safari we will be hunting images not big game.

Equipment needed: digital camera, open eyes, open mind.

Start by choosing your theme. I find it best to choose something general and abstract, rather than concrete and specific, as this gives you the most creative room to play in. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • yellow
  • round
  • vertical
  • text
  • aged
  • abstract
  • angles
  • depth
  • rough
  • rhythm

After you have chosen your theme, grab your camera, get out there and shoot! Find whatever you can that is related to the theme. This is not about creating art but about exercising your seeing muscles. Part of the fun of a photo safari is pushing past the obvious. So stick with a theme long enough to start being amazed at the world you live in.

While it's usually best to safari solo, it's fun to share your images with other safari-ers. Choose your theme of the week (or month or whatever), create an online photo account (i.e. Flickr, Shutterfly, Picasa, etc.) where everyone can post their images. For inspiration, check out the squared circle Flickr group.


Random words and images can be used as triggers for making connections, to force your thinking out of a mind-rut and to help you see patterns you might not have seen otherwise.

Start by choosing a creative project that you are working on. Open a book, magazine or web page (dictionaries work well for words; Flickr works well for images). Randomly point to a word or image on the page or screen. Find a connection between your project and that word or image. Some connections will be harder to make than others, but these usually yield the most creative ideas. So if you get a tough one, keep pushing. It will almost always be worth the extra effort.

Don't limit yourself to obvious sources of words and images - you can use just about anything! Try a photo album, a deck of tarot cards, a can of food in your cupboard or signs along the street on your way to work. The idea is to find anything that gets your mind to think along new tracks, to see something new (or something old in a new way), to approach your project from a different point of view.

Some random sources of randomness on the web include:


Reverie, a state of relaxed musing or daydreaming, is the mental space where ideas are born. When we are in reverie, we are as close to the muses as we can get.

Reverie is a way of accessing the intuitive, right-brain part of our minds. During reverie, ideas and images and thoughts and knowledge and all sort of things come into contact with each other in your brain. They connect, break apart, connect with something else, form patterns, new ideas and images and thoughts and knowledge. Reverie is the juicy part of creativity.

Creative people have to be able to consciously enter the state of reverie when they need to generate new ideas. Of course, since reverie is a semi-conscious state, that poses a dilemma. But creative people are, well, creative in the ways they have found to bring about this valuable - and enjoyable - state. Some of the most well known reverie-inducing techniques include:


Daydreaming is like chocolate - it used to be considered an indulgent vice, but now the experts say it's good for you! So feel free to indulge your daydreaming nature (while eating chocolate if you like).

Some of my favorite daydreams are about traveling; I dream up fabulous trips to exotic - sometimes imaginary - locations. I vividly picture the hotel, the rooms decorated in bright corals and teals, the soft white sands of the beach; I take in the sweet smells and unusual sounds, the feel of the breeze on my sun-warmed skin. Ahhhh, I am there. Paradise!

A daydream is not a waste of time, even daydreams about tropical vacations. Daydreaming relaxes the mind and opens us up to ideas and connections we might not have had otherwise. And you might be surprised at how some of the images and ideas in your daydreams end up either working their way into your project or trigger other things that do. So go ahead and indulge, grab your chocolate and daydream!


Drawing is a wonderful way to induce reveries. It quiets the logical part of our minds and lets the intuitive part have free rein. I recommend reading one or both of the following (AND doing the exercises!) – Betty Edwards' Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain and Frederick Franck's Zen of Seeing. You will be amazed!

Most of us (including me) say, "I can't even draw a straight line!" Drawing for reverie is not about drawing straight lines, or even about drawing pictures that look "correct." Drawing for reverie is about quieting the left-brain and learning to see – both of which are very helpful in the creative process.

So grab a piece of paper and a pen, turn a picture upside down or study – really study – a blade of grass. Then draw. And enjoy as your mind enters reverie…one unstraight line at a time.


Talking a walk is a natural reverie inducer; when you are stuck, a walk may be all that is needed to open the door to a new idea. The rhythm of your steps, the fresh air, the change of scene, perhaps even the endorphins generated from the exercise all combine to relax and open your mind.


Water relaxes the body and mind, allowing you to easily slip into reverie. Take a bath or a shower, go swimming, sit by a river, walk along a beach or just listen to a table top fountain. Just about any interaction with water - including doing the dishes - can induce a relaxing state of aqua-reverie.


All creative people need resources. Here are some of my favorite references and sources of inspiration.


Where can you look for inspiration? EVERYWHERE!

Books and Magazines

Read, read, read, read, read, read, read! Reading is one of the best ways to fill your head with stuff! Browse through a new section of the library or bookstore. Pick up a magazine about a field you know nothing about. Listen to audiobooks in the car or before bed.

I especially enjoy reading books about the creative process. Some of my favorites include books by John Hench, Milton Glaser, Chuck Jones, Paul Rand and the Disney Imagineers. I love looking at the concept art and seeing the process of idea development in the Art of [insert your favorite movie title here] books, , such as The Art of Spirited Away, The Art of The Fellowship of the Ring and The Art of Monsters, Inc.


Try a new restaurant, a new grocery store, a new vegetable. Learn about wine or cheese or cooking with flowers. Buy a cookbook, find a new recipe or just improvise in the kitchen. If all else fails, eat chocolate!


Listen to something you are unfamiliar with. My favorites are soundtracks (evocative and visual) and classical (uplifting and inspiring). Listen to something with a different beat, or from a different country or something using instruments you have never heard of (glass armonica, anyone?).


  • Gardens - Wander and be inspired.
  • Museums - Exploration! Adventure! Gift shops!
  • Travel - One of the best ways to stimulate your creativity. Our eyes are always open wider in new places.
  • Walt Disney World - My very favorite place to visit...an absolute wonderland of imagination.


Web sites


The creative spirit is more than an occasional insight or whimsical flourish. When the creative spirit stirs, it animates a style of being: a lifetime filled with the desire to innovate, to explore new ways of doing things, to bring dreams to reality. ~ Daniel Goleman, Paul Kaufman and Michael Ray, The Creative Spirit

No matter who you are, the creative spirit can enter your life. It is at hand for anyone with the urge to tinker, to explore new possibilities, to leave things a little better than before. ~ Daniel Goleman, Paul Kaufman and Michael Ray, The Creative Spirit

I find that a great part of the information I have was acquired by looking up something and finding something else along the way. ~ Franklin Adams

The magic of creativity is that it takes all the disparate bits of your life and makes sense of them, combining them is ways no one else can, because no one else has your knowledge, personality or experience. ~ Clare Warmke and Lisa Buchanan, Idea Revolution

Who can help me? What if I fall? When can I find the time? Where do my dreams fit in a crowded world? How can I lift my head above the awesome daily tasks of life? Why art, why storytelling, why look with new eyes? Why strive for the impossible, why be creative, why do all this? We'd willingly search everywhere for the secrets of creativity like Voltaire's Candide, who traveled the world over, experiencing gruesome adventures, seeking the best of all worlds, only to end up at home on a little farm, where he reminds himself with quiet regularity, "We must cultivate our own garden." In the end, there is no magic formula for creativity out there. It is all within you. ~ Don Hahn, Dancing Corn Dogs in the Night

All this searching for creative achievement may seem like a lonely and at times meaningless pursuit on the fringes of society, but it is not. The creative forces at play within us are the essence of our humanity, and there is something truly heroic about it—this heroism of the seeking mind. This willingness to leap into the void, to illuminate the darkness, to remove the blinders from our eyes and from the eyes of our fellow man. It is this heroism of the creator that drives the evolution of the human species and gives validity and meaning to our life's journey. And so all the pain, the insecurity, the buffeting, and the doubt seem justified in the knowledge that we can ultimately soar above the confines of our anxieties and experience something bigger than ourselves. We can offer up our very personal gift to the human project and in doing so come closer to...happiness than ever before. ~ Don Hahn, Dancing Corn Dogs in the Night

We create because we have to. It's what we do. Every day our senses are bombarded with a spectrum of impressions. These impressions imprint powerfully on our souls. We can keep these impressions inside where they can build up and clog our drain or we can spill them out in wonderfully flowing expressions about how we interpret life. We are meant to express how we feel about life. It's like breathing: Inhale the experiences of life, exhale how you feel about them. We are at our best when we can turn our impressions into expressions. The equation goes like this: impression without expression equals depression. ~ Don Hahn, Dancing Corn Dogs in the Night

Just like a skydiver, the defining moment in writing, cooking, architecture, or dance is when you decide to leave the safety of inaction and leap into the unknown void. The courage and willingness to jump into that void and feel the rush of the wind in the hope that you will be able to spread your wings and fly…that is the touchstone of the creative process. We've got an idea and we are flush with anticipation. Our mind races with the possibilities. We leap. ~ Don Hahn, Dancing Corn Dogs in the Night

The process is where the treasure of creativity is buried. It's the feeling you get when you are immersed in a project with your head down and all one billion brain cells are immersed in trying to forge idea, craft, and medium into a new creation…~ Don Hahn, Dancing Corn Dogs in the Night

...inspiring solutions often come from a mind that wanders and hops, meanders and skips from topic to topic. ~ Clare Warmke and Lisa Buchanan, Idea Revolution

The artist is not a different kind of person, but every person is a different kind of artist. ~ Eric Gill

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist after he grows up. ~ Pablo Picasso

Any activity becomes creative when the doer cares about doing it right, or doing it better. ~ John Updike

Man is a creature of hope and invention, both of which belie the idea that things cannot be changed. ~ Tom Clancy

Creativity can solve almost any problem. The creative act, the defeat of habit by originality, overcomes everything. ~ George Lois

Limitless possibilities
The brain is wider than the sky, 
For, put them side by side, 
The one the other will include 
With ease, and you beside.
~ Emily Dickinson

Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun. ~ Mary Lou Cook

Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way. ~ Edward de Bono

The ability to relate and to connect, sometimes in odd and yet striking fashion, lies at the very heart of any creative use of the mind, no matter what field or discipline.
~ George Seidel

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. ~ Scott Adams

Creativity is the confidence to know that you'll get there even though you are the missing the roadmap and the road and the car and the fuel. ~ Leigh White, Idea Revolution

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