On ‘A Technique for Producing Ideas’
James Webb Young’s book on how to have ideas has become a benchmark for creative thinking. There’s a simple reason for that — it’s based on the way your brain works.
And it’s pure gold.
I wish someone had told me about it when I was starting out in advertising. I’d recommend it to anyone whether they’re setting out on their career or if they’re in the thick it. The brilliant thing is, you can apply these principles to any situation in your life, where you need an idea — all for less than $10.
It’s a simple five step process:
“For this, then, is the whole process or method by which ideas are produced.”
“First, the gathering of raw materials — both the materials of your immediate problem and the materials which form a constant enrichment of your store of general knowledge.
Second, the working over of these materials in your mind.
Third, the incubating stage, where you let something beside the conscious mind do the work of synthesis.
Fourth, the actual birth of the Idea — the “Eureka! I have it’’ stage.
And fifth, the final shaping and development of this idea to practical usefulness.” quoted from ‘A Technique for Producing Ideas’ by James Webb Young
For me, the third step is the most valuable secret JWY reveals. Learning to walk away from a problem and trusting your subconscious do the heavy lifting is liberating. While you do something else, your brain is busy joining the dots. And it’s the reason for to those eureka! moments when ideas pop into your head fully-formed. If I’d known about this step sooner, it could have saved me a lot of heartache and many fruitless hours chained to a desk.
Sometimes people baulk at reading the book. Usually it’s because they believe that ‘being creative’ is a magical process and peeking under the hood will somehow kill that magic.
For me, reading this book was naming the parts. I already knew I could to come up with ideas — I just needed to understand the process. Step three was the key, it gave me added confidence of knowing that the blank page is never completely blank, however pristine and empty it appears to be.
First published on medium.com