Monday, January 23, 2006

Dream Thinking

I'm in the business of creativity--coming up with a new concept, catch phrase, tag line, headline, cool advertising copy and so on. Over the years, I've found the most consistently effective way to produce new ideas and solve problems is by dreaming. When I go to sleep, I assign myself a problem. I try not to solve it before I go to sleep and simply think about the characteristics a great solution would have. For example, I might mull over some analogies or comparisons. I might set my brain up for "no-holds-barred" thinking by envisioning the outcome of the ad or marketing materials--happy clients, ecstatic sales people, enthusiastic consumers and so on. This relaxes me and removes the natural fear that I might not come up with anything.

Sigmund Freud felt a lot of important things got done during dreams. In part, he believed that our inhibitions are less likely to intrude on our dreaming. The censors "relax" and we don't hear that voice in our brains saying "You can't think that thought!" So we dream about weird things that we wouldn't allow ourselves to think about during the day. This elimination of the negatives--the mental blocks--during the dream state make it far easier to be freely creative.

Another thing that stays in the background during dreams is the rational "editors" who take the night off. That's why such fantastic things happen in dreams. And, the most amazing thing about it is that you don't think these fantastic things are amazing. They seem quite plausible. The surreal is accepted as real. This is very conducive to creative thinking.

But, the actual dream state is only part of the process. Early in the morning, when you have just started to wake up you are capable of lucid dreaming. You still have access to the dream thoughts. This is when you must remember things or have them evaporate. During this period, I can still evaluate ideas that came to me in the night and see which ones make sense. After only 20 minutes or so in this lucid dreaming state, I will have new insights into whatever my assignment was. Many times, I find I have the solution, or creative idea fully formed and ready to go!

I bring this creativity technique to the attention of Action Geek readers because you are creative people. You have a talent for juxtaposition of ideas that create new ideas, new visuals, and new sounds. Because you have this talent, it is your DUTY to use it efficiently and productively. So, I have an assignment. Tonight: Give yourself an assignment. Make it rather easy. Something along the lines of I need to think of something that will produce surprise when I tell someone. See what happens. I think you will be surprised.

The Stickler


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