mind map coffee

The other day I was interviewed by Youngman Brown for a future “Your Creative Push” Podcast. To say I was nervous was an understatement, I didn’t sleep much that night as the podcast was at 7 am. I was saying to Youngman that when you are brainstorming you want to come up with a lot of ideas rather than settle on your first ones. He then asked me how you know when to stop generating ideas for a project. I have been thinking about it ever since and still don’t completely know the answer.

When do you stop brainstorming?

Working on a project for someone else

So if it’s a project for someone else it’s relatively simple. For example, if I was asked to come up with some logo ideas, I would quote the job and know roughly the time I had allocated myself to have the first options ready to present. Let’s assume this initial stage is one day. I know I need at minimum of half a day to work the ideas up on the computer. So I would probably spend an hour or doing a bit of research and seeing what else is out there and collecting some inspiration. This leaves me with roughly two hours to brainstorm/mind map and sketch out some ideas. With that time constraint in place, I can only explore ideas for a certain amount before I have to start working the ideas up. Of course, even at computer stage, the ideas will change.

Ideas for your own projects

If you are working on a project for yourself – how exactly do you know how to stop? You want to generate a lot of ideas, but no so many your enthusiasm has dwindled. If you are doing a daily project – such as writing or creating a drawing every day, it’s fairly simple as you don’t have time to explore or be too precious. But when the project is open-ended it’s more difficult, unless you impose your own deadline.

Killing an idea with kindness

I remember years ago when was at art college, I had one of those happy accidents. When I opened a magazine there was an image of a tribal man with war paint. On the rear of the page, there was an image of a river. As I turned the page I could see the image of the river looking like it was running through the man. I was really inspired and desperately wanted to paint the image of the river man. But the fine art tutor said I should explore ideas around the theme first instead. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but went along with it and went through the motion of experimenting.

After a week or so, he saw that I was getting nowhere and not enjoying what I was doing. So he said ok, well go ahead and paint your initial river man. But by that point, I had no enthusiasm anymore. I had given my idea too much time and over thought it. I had killed it with kindness. Those experiments had sucked the life out of my painting idea and when I tried to paint it, it looked awful.

Sometimes you have to go with your gut

I still think that we should explore our options when we are brainstorming ideas. But sometimes if you really feel compelled to do something then you should just go with your gut.