Today’s show features Stephanie Bisby, a writer who writes under her maiden name Stephanie Cage. Currently based in Yorkshire but from the south of England originally, Stephanie writes mainly romantic fiction. Having worked a lot in marketing, business, and communications, this tends to creep into her writing too. Her most recent book The Crash is an experiment in blogging a book releasing a chapter at a time on her website.
What you will learn in this episode:
- What creative projects Stephanie is currently working on
- A word on traditional and self-publishing
- Stephanie’s tips for finding inspiration and managing ideas
- Why too many ideas are not the problem you think they are
- Stephanie’s Favourite Creative Tools
Current creative projects
Stephanie’s current novel is called The Crash and it’s about a businessman who runs a car parts firm. It’s a little inspired by Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in that it’s about a person who completely changes their outlook. It also combines Stephanie’s two fascinations, business, and fiction, because although it’s a novel, it teaches some of the lessons she feels are important to learn in business. It’s not a romance but rather a didactic novel that aims to teach about people and principles, similar to Eli Goldratt’s The Goal.
This project is interesting because Stephanie is blogging it one chapter at a time. The book is complete in draft form already, and putting in on her website means she can polish one chapter at a time and receive feedback from the public. It was a kind of personal challenge to do it this way. At the end, she hopes to self-publish through Amazon CreateSpace, hopefully in July or August this year.
A word on Traditional vs. Self-Publishing
Stephanie has done both traditional and is currently in the process of self-publishing. Her romance novels are published by Crimson Romance, which has now been bought by Simon and Schuster. She hasn’t gotten too far down the self-publishing route yet so it’s difficult to compare them. One reason she’s leaning towards self-publishing currently is because of the amount of work the author still has to do in traditional publishing. Unless you are a big name like J. K. Rowling or Stephen King or somebody coming into publishing with a following from another field, you have to do so much work yourself in terms of marketing and promotion, that in a sense a lot of the hard work is still yours whether you’re traditionally publishing or not. Stephanie decided that because of this, and for the sake of having control as well, it might be worth taking on some of the rest of the work.
She finds marketing other people’s things very easy but doesn’t find marketing her own work easy at all. That’s scary, British people don’t blow their own trumpets! Stephanie feels too close to it and so involved that it’s difficult not to give too much detail, which isn’t necessarily what you want when you’re pitching a book.
Tips for inspiration and ideas management
Some of Stephanie’s ideas come from her work, but her other passion is dancing. Her biggest romance novel is called Perfect Partners and was sort of inspired by Strictly Come Dancing. Crimson Romance take individual books and create box sets of a collection of books with a common thread, for example, stage romances, or second chance love stories.
Stephanie’s general experience of ideas is they tend to happen when something meets something else. She loves looking at the different ways people approach stories. She says she will have all kinds of ideas all the time, for example, she might see somebody interesting on a bus and go off on a flight of fancy, but it’s not an idea yet. When it becomes an idea is when it bumps up against something else.
Stephanie says she has ‘an awful lot of notebooks.’ She has one she carries with her, one in the bedroom, several around the house as well as using both her computer and mobile phone to keep track of notes. She likes going over the notebooks because each notebook will be a series of notes from different times and that’s when the things bump up against each other and become ideas. She will often have half an idea floating around already, and then something else will come up and bump against it, and then it flows and comes out very quickly. This is how Stephanie wrote The Stone Child, a short story for a 24-hour story competition.
Why too many ideas are not a problem
Stephanie doesn’t think too many ideas are really a problem. It’s the nature of creative people to have too many ideas and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with developing two in tandem or 4 or 5 of them as long as they’re progressing and as long as some of them at some point reach a conclusion. There are times when she is writing one story and interrupts herself part way to go write something completely different. Then, when eventually she comes back to the first story, she is much fresher and feels her writing is better off for having the time away.
Barbara Sher’s book What Do I Do When I Want To Do Everything? has been enormously influential for Stephanie, both in allowing her to work with many ideas and in using the school day model for working out her time. She finds she focuses in very short bursts and gets really bored if she has to do one thing for very long. What works for her is to have a period of time when she will focus very intensely on one project, but then later in the day might choose to focus on something completely different.
When managing multiple projects, Stephanie can’t be at the same stage with several projects at once. Therefore she will tend to have one project in the first draft phase, one project in the 2nd draft phase, one in the final edit and one that she’s marketing and promoting. She doesn’t always schedule her time but does find, unsurprisingly, that it’s the time when she does schedule that she gets more done. Working full time at the moment she is trying to schedule writing on weekends and bank holidays, but otherwise, it’s just a case of fitting it in where possible.
Stephanie’s Favourite Creative Tools
Stephanie is a huge fan of pretty notebooks and her small ASUS T100 computer. She tends to write factual rough drafts on paper, and fiction rough drafts on the computer. She used to use Microsoft Word for this but she’s now experimenting with Scrivener.
She enjoys The Creative Penn Podcast with Joanna Penn
Books she recommends include Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and Artists Way at Work, Writing with Power by Peter Elbow, and Strunk and White’s Elements of Style.
Connect with Stephanie
This is the second idea generation experiment using 5 random products bought for £5 from Poundland.
Idea generation inspiration
You know when you see something on social media and you think – now that’s a cool idea? That’s what I thought when I saw an image created by Joanna Blaylock @joglassjo on Instagram. She’d taken a strip of image from her business card and used it as the starting point for an abstract painting.
I wondered if I could use a similar technique to create character designs from my random items. So I stole the inspiration and started by taking some quick photos.
Step 1 photos of the random items
Step 2 draw on a strip of the image
Then using a strip of a couple of the images, they became the starting point for little doodle characters. I used an iPad pro and scribbled on them using the Apple pencil.
Putting the doodle ideas together
I then traced over the characters, removed the starting images and coloured it up in the ideamedic colours.
It was a fun experiment to try and I’ll probably do it again.
What don’t you give it a go or steal it and adapt it to be something new.
Check out a series of videos created by Canon all about creativity. This one features 3 photographers who are blindfolded while they eat food prepared by a chef. They can use their other senses to touch, smell and taste the food, but are not allowed to look at it. They are then asked to interpret what they experienced through photography.
Another video shows photographers who are given the brief of shooting an empty studio
You can find the other videos at The Lab, Canon
Stephen Key and Andrew Krauss from Inventright.have some of the best information I’ve seen on getting your product ideas licensed. I followed their methods to license a simple candy idea. Unfortunately, my product idea only made it to sample stage, as the product couldn’t be made cheaply enough. What I like about Stephen and Andrew’s approach is that they don’t talk about spending loads of money on patents. Instead, they give you a step by step process from initial idea to presenting to potential companies without spending a fortune.
One Simple Idea Books
Stephen has several great books as well as an Inventright Course. The two books I really like are both called One Simple Idea. The yellow version of the book is for anyone wanting to license their product idea for a royalty. The benefit of licensing is that you don’t pay for manufacturing, instead, you receive a small commission on each product that sells. The red book version of One Simple Idea is ideal if you are looking to manufacture your product idea yourself.
Inventright also has a series of free videos available with advice on getting your product idea to market.
If you are looking to are looking to license your ideas, check out what they have to say.
Protecting Your Idea as Easy as 1-2-3
What is Licensing?
Inventor friendly industries for Licensing Product Ideas
Ideo have a free pdf book you can download which teaches the method they use for designing products and services. I’ve just downloaded it to see if I can adapt any of the methods to use myself.
“The Field Guide to Human-Centered Design reveals our process with the key mindsets that underpin how and why we think about design for the social sector, 57 clear-to-use design methods for new and experienced practitioners, and from-the-field case studies of human-centered design in action. The Field Guide has everything you need to understand the people you’re designing for, to have more effective brainstorms, to prototype your ideas, and to ultimately arrive at more creative solutions.”
Today’s podcast guest is Morwhenna Woolcock, the founder of The Creative Adventurer. Based in a little village between Bristol and Bath, Morwhenna helps people rediscover their creativity and sense of adventure for a richer life. She also works part time for a charity called Creative Works doing communications and marketing. In this episode we explore many of Morwhenna’s creative projects and how her health led her to rediscover her creativity in her 30s. She did this for herself, but then realised she could use all the things she learned in these projects to help other people.
What you will learn in this episode
- Morwhenna’s creative journey and major projects, including The UK Islands Project, Bags of Love for Bristol and the Forty-Forty Project
- Why health and adventure have been big inspirations for Morwhenna to rediscover her creativity
- How Morwhenna generates and keeps track of her many ideas
- Morwhenna’s favourite creative tools and resources
- The UK Islands Project
Morwhenna’s current creative project is the UK Islands project. She is visiting a different UK Island a month for 12 months, exploring how the different islands have inspired different creative people and then creating a piece of work herself in response to her experience of the island.
So far Morwhenna has been to the Isles of Portland, Sheppey, Scilly, Lundy and Skomer. She was inspired to go to Portland because of the stone used by Henry Moore and by Barbara Hepworth, as well as the book The Isle of Slingers by Thomas Hardy. Similarly, she was inspired to go to the Isle of Sheppey because Turner and Dickens were both inspired by the island.
Morwhenna says this project, much like many of her others, is about following the crumbs of curiosity and seeing where they lead. She goes to the islands to explore, meet up with local creative people, and collect resources for her to turn into an artwork afterwards. Sometimes she goes with other people, including her partner Richard, but other times she goes by herself. She says she notices more that way because she isn’t distracted by others.
In 2012, the first creative project Morwhenna did was as part of the 30 Day Challenge. She made 30 bags from recycled materials and screen printed them with the words ‘Do What You Love’. Then she left the bags around Bristol with instructions for people to send her a picture of themselves using them. She ended up with about 15 people return photos to her and she loved seeing the bags go on to have a life of their own and have adventures.
When Morwhenna turned 40 she ignored people telling her aging was terrible and decided it was an opportunity for a project. After starting with a list of hundreds, she whittled it down to a list of 40 things she’d like to do in the year of being 40 years old. However, as she was working through them she realised she didn’t want to rush them for the sake of cramming them into the year. The focus was on the experience more than the speed of it, so she decided to extend it to be ‘in the 40s’ to give her a full ten years to complete everything. So far she has completed about 25 of the items and all the information about it is on her website.
Other Creative Projects
The 30 Day Challenge was the catalyst for Morwhenna to start doing some of the projects she’d been thinking about for years but had never had the confidence to do. After Bags of Love for Bristol, she did a joint project with a photographer called Do What You Love, where they interviewed and photographed 10 people doing what they loved.
Then Morwhenna did a year without buying any new clothes, which she shared online and had people all around the world joining in. She was also involved indirectly with an exhibition about the history of women in textiles in St. Ives.
She has run some online workshops in conjunction with Jamie McDonald called Connect to Nature, Connect to Self which were basically creative adventures in nature to help people with inspiration, mindfulness, wellbeing and rediscovering their childlike wonder and curiosity. Morwhenna also has run an online course about doodling, which she is now turning into live, in-person workshops, as well as a retreat in Lundy Island inspired by the Famous Five books.
She also did a walk following in the footsteps of Saint Morwenna from Brecon Beacons in Cardiff to Morwenstow. This was something she’d had the idea to do 6 years prior to doing it, but with some physical challenges, it seemed for a long time impossible. However, Morwhenna found that once she committed to doing it, things started to happen. She says you never know where the things you do will end up. The Pilgrim Postcards project also started with that walking trip, and now she is also doing it in a slightly different form with the UK Islands Project.
Health, Adventure and Creativity
About 5 years ago, Morwhenna was quite poorly and was looking for ways to make herself better without having to rely on anti-depressant tablets. She felt she needed a way to look after herself and revisiting creativity really helped her. It then began developing into creating workshops to help other people do the same. All of Morwhenna’s creative projects involve nature in some way and often walking, which have also been shown to benefit people’s mental health. The three threads that run through everything she does are creativity, adventure and nature.
On the adventure side, Morwhenna had always wanted to go on a volunteer placement and specifically wanted something that would involve using art for wellbeing and mental health. She happened upon Art Relief International, based in Chang Mai, Thailand. She booked a trip to work for them and also started a whole lot of other related activities to fundraise for the trip. It’s only once she decided to take those steps that it all began to fall into place.
Generating and keeping track of ideas
For Morwhenna, ideas come from all over the place, including walking in nature, exploring places, reading books, looking at maps and going to 2nd hand book shops. She follows the crumbs of her interest, notices what sparks ideas and then does research and waits to see what happens.
With so many ideas and projects, Morwhenna does find keeping track of them difficult and it sometimes wears her out. She usually uses hand-written ways of keeping track of ideas rather than technological ways. Although she does keep notes on her phone she prefers to use notebooks, diaries and big whiteboard sheets stuck to the wall. Mind mapping has also been extremely useful for her and suggests dating the ideas when they come so you can keep track of it over time.
Reflection and quiet time are also very important for Morwhenna’s creative process. She tends to work in fits and starts, so it’s important that she work with that energy and allow for stillness so as to not wear herself out. Choosing which idea to go with used to be a sticking point for her but doing the 30 Day Project helped free her up form that so she could pick one and actually get on with doing the project.
Morwhenna’s favourite resources
Laura Hollick who does Intuitive Art
John Williams’ 30 Day Challenge and his book The Play Projects
Alistair Humphreys work on Micro Adventures
Danny Wallace’s books, including The Yes Man
Phoebe Smith wild camping extreme sleeping adventurer
Connect with Morwhenna
She has some upcoming events in September including a Creative Retreat and an online course called “How to be a Creative Adventurer”
I started an idea generation experiment a couple of weeks ago. It began by giving my partner £5 to spend on 5 random “quality” items in Poundland. I didn’t influence his choice, apart from telling him he couldn’t just buy sweets 🙂 .
The five items he chose were a:
- tablet stand
- travel mug
- garden fork
- gooseberry bush
- toy dart gun
What would the offspring of two of the items look like
Imagine that two of the items fell in love 🙂 and were going to have a child. Imagine what the offspring might look like. I chose the travel mug and garden fork.
Create two lists of their attributes
List out what both the items are made of and what they are used for.
- hole at the top
- double walled
- 3 prongs
- patterned metal
- wood (handle)
- leather hanger
- turnover soil
Combine the attributes
Then start combining and item of each list. You can either combine the item as a whole or use one of its parts. Don’t worry if the ideas are silly (mine are) or have been done before. Judging the ideas would come at a later stage. This is about letting your imagination loose.
Here are a few examples
travel mug > patterned metal
A trendy travel mug made of patterned metal
drink > three prongs
A mini drinks table which had prongs for uneven gardens
travel > garden
A mini garden for the caravan or a plant pot on wheels or ball bearings that you can move into the sun or it moves itself.
travel > plant
A suction dashboard plant for the car. Or maybe a living car air freshener plant or air purifier.
travel > plant
A living globe, a sphere covered with blue plants for the ocean and green the land.
on-the-go > garden
A wearable garden. A hat with growing plants
on-the-go > seed
A valentines card with the word love made out of seeds. You water it and the love will grow – groan
insulating > handle
A glove built into a garden fork to keep your hands clean
travel > garden
A gardenening kit in a suitcase
lid > 3 prongs
A garden fork with a lid that makes it into a trowel
See how many ideas you get
See what sort of ideas you get. Once you have finished brainstorming, you can then start evaluating if any of the ideas are worth researching.
Need help – Book a free brainstorming first aid session
Today, while working on a design job today I was listening to a Google talk with Elle Luna. She talks about the difference between should and must. Should, the things we things feel we ought to do and must, the things we are compelled to do. She shares her story about having a dream about white room where she would sit with a sense of peace. A friend tells her to go looking for the room in real life. It sounds a bit bonkers, but she decided to pursue it for the spirit of adventure. She started her search by looking on Craigslist. This leads to her renting an apartment with the room from her dreams and rediscovering her love of painting.
I thought it was quite apt to share as all the content I am creating for this blog started as part of the #the100dayproject. A project started by Elle Luna to inspire people to create every day and share their work.
Years ago I used to get the odd job of coming up with ideas for product names. One such job was to generate names for a fire extinguisher of all things. My partner and I brainstormed over a bottle of Prosecco on a Friday night. From our options, they chose Easi-Action, which makes me laugh. It sounds like a dirty movie and was probably alcohol induced. Anyway, it was fun!
Create a list of associated words
Nowadays there are better ways of coming up with business or domain name ideas. Prosecco is optional. First, mind map or list out words related to your company, product or domain. Try using a Thesaurus or a site like Rhymezone for ideas. You can also use Google to search for words related to your topic. For example, if the name is related to pet toys search for ‘words related to dogs’ and ‘words related to toys’. Another option is to put your words ie. “Dog toys” in Google Images or one of the Photo libraries. The images may give you additional inspiration.
Some great websites to give your more domain name ideas
Once you have a list of words, there are a couple of websites you can use for further options. Go to Bustaname and start inputting your words two at a time. As you input words the arrow on the right which gives you further alternative words. You can choose to add any of these too if they’re suitable. Bustaname will start trying to combine your words. I always set it to only show me names where the dot com is available. Of course, you can change it to any domains you are happy with.
Another great tool is Namemesh. I think I prefer this to Bustaname, though both work well. Put two of your words which go well together in the box. Then hit generate. I usually only look at the ‘similar section‘. Scroll through to see if there are any options you like. I also like to write down options which are interesting but not necessarily suitable. I’ll then input these new words into the box and hit generate again. Keep a note of any ideas you like as you go.
Watch out for weird combinations
One thing to double check is that your domain name doesn’t read badly as something else. For example, I once came up with the domain name IdeasExchange. Of course, it could also read IdeaSexChange which wasn’t quite what I had in mind!
Check if social media names area available
Use www.namecheckr.com to check if your chosen domain is also available on social media.
Creative Thinking Techniques Don’t Have to Be Used in Isolation
If you have read anything about idea generation you may have learned a few Creative Thinking Techniques. This starts to make ideas on demand (like an Uber) more possible, but something is missing, something which we don’t seem to be taught. We tend to see each creative technique in isolation and instead, we should be viewing it more like a slalom.
Imagine your search for ideas starts at the top of a mountain and at the bottom is an avalanche of ideas just waiting for you. In order to get to the bottom, you have to weave in and out a series of creative thinking techniques.
The first pole might be mind mapping, then you could take one of the ideas you generate from that and move on to the next pole ie. The Random Image Technique. You then continue the slalom and either revisit the mind mapping technique (you could use this to break down the Random image into its components) or move on to another creative technique such as brainwriting/freewriting,
Each time you weave the ideas you previously generated with the new technique and each builds on the last.
Let me give you an example – Let’s assume you’re good at playing the guitar (I’ve tried and I’m not) and you decide you could make some money by giving guitar lessons. Start at the top of the Mountain, and first before doing anything else you might try –
Reframing the Problem
Reframing a problem means stating the problem in different ways which can open your eyes to new possibilities
You could instead ask
How could I make money from music?
How could I make money by playing the guitar?
How could I make money from my guitar?
By writing the question in different ways it might open up different lines of thought, than just making money giving guitar lessons.
Then take your reframed questions and mindmap them.
Start with a central word or phrase and then branch off with associated words
So if you took:
How could I make money from my guitar? We could associate “money” with “rent” and think about a guitar rental service, or become an affiliate for a guitar manufacturer.
Then you could take some of the ideas from the mindmap and introduce the random image technique.
The Random Image Technique
Look at a random image and see how it could relate back to your problem or idea. If you struggle to weave back to mind mapping and mind map out all the elements of the image before you start.
Imagine you had a random picture of a woodland scene you could mind map this into its component parts – trees, stream, blue sky, nature etc etc. Then thinking back to rent from the previous mind map this could lead you to the idea of renting a house in the woods for a guitar nature retreat.
You can develop a few ideas of these further by using another technique such as brainwriting/freewriting.
Freewriting (also known as brainwriting) is a technique whereby you set a timer for a set amount of time eg. Ten minutes and then you write continuously on a topic without stopping. If you get stuck and can’t think what to write just repeat yourself or write anything that comes into your head. The theory is that this allows the subconscious to take over and stops your sensible brain from censoring your thoughts.
Using the guitar example (from the random image technique) you could take the idea of a guitar nature retreat and write on the topic for ten minutes and see what new ideas emerge. If you wanted you could then run any new ideas back through any of the previous creative techniques or try a new one.