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How to become an idea machine

a step-by-step guide without all the mumbo-bumbo rubbish.

By Noah DouglasPublished 2 years ago 4 min read
How to become an idea machine
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

No.1: Switching your mindset

I’m going to annoy some people here but there is no such thing as ‘writer’s block’.

If you are a living, breathing human who interacts with people you have knowledge.

You have ideas- you just need to find them.

When you hang out with your friends is your mouth sewn shut? I hope not.

Have you heard of something called ‘speakers block’? Me neither.

Is doing something you don't want to do fun? Of course not.

It is here we see the problem. It is uncomfortable coming up with ideas.

You want to believe that you will get a ‘eureka’ moment and some earth-shaking insight will occur, and although this occasionally happens, you are much better-curating work than contemplating thoughts.

Like a muscle, you must train how you create.

James Altucher puts it brilliantly, “The way to have good ideas is to get close to killing yourself. It’s like weightlifting. When you lift slightly more than you can handle, you get stronger.”

You must practice creating ideas.

By Pablo Arroyo on Unsplash

No.2: Make it easy for yourself

You need to allow yourself the ability to harvest ideas anytime, anywhere.

How do you do that?

Have a very easy system to record headlines, thoughts, and anything that will spark the imagination.

There is no right way of doing this other than the fact that it needs to be with you at all times.

My system consists of a few things:

  1. having an app called Evernote on my phone and laptop to clip any things that I intend in using later
  2. a voice dictaphone for me to speak into when I think I have an idea (I use an app called Otter)
  3. using a physical notebook to write down notes/ ideas

Do all my writings ever reach the light of day? Nope.

But that’s not the point.

I’m creating an ability to observe and discern.

The more I create the more I have the ability to create better- and that means I’m going to have to come up with a lot of rubbish first.

By THE 5TH on Unsplash

No.3: Create a routine

We often believe that it is the elaborate things that spur brilliant ideas, creativity, and writing. It’s not. It’s the small things done right.

One of the most helpful quotes I turn to for this is by W. Somerset Maugham;

“I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately, it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.”

There is no need for a fancy set of rituals but rather just a good routine.

Keep it simple:

  • Write around the same time.
  • Write in the same place.
  • Choose a length that you’ll stick to.
  • Do it for years.

The biggest downfall for writing is the hesitation before the pen hits paper. You just have to start.

By Iñaki del Olmo on Unsplash

No.4: Feed yourself

Books allow you to download the life experiences of another human within the space of a few hours.

With the vast library of writing available, you can educate yourself on so much- both fictional and nonfiction.

As Stephen King suggests, ‘Books are uniquely portable magic’.

Through reading not only are you generating numerous ideas but you are studying perspectives, unlocking new parts of your brain, as well as developing the craft of formulating words.

In a world where the written form and slow media are in the decline simply opening up, a book will put you miles ahead of the competition.

Okay, but what should I read?

Many would argue you should read certain types of books, like nonfiction only, or the classics- however, I disagree.

As Naval Ravikant says, ‘read the books that make you want to read more’.

As you read more you will develop a style, genre, and focus.

Upon doing this your ideas will find a niche and it will enable you to delve into topics many have not before.

So pick up a book.

By Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

No.5: Get your ideas out there

If you never received any criticism you would believe you were always right and there would be no potential for growth.

In publishing your ideas you not only have a great sense of accountability but you work on removing a perfectionist attachment to your work.

People will hate it- So what?

That is part of the process.

Developing a healthy relationship with scrutiny allows you to take a good look at your ideas and change them from good to great.

It also enables you to get comfortable with the process of being a writer.

If you have never gotten any ideas out there- that initial one will have a lot of pressure- On the 500th one, less so.

It is just part of what you do.

“Ship often. Ship lousy stuff, but ship. And ship constantly.” — Seth Godin

By Sven Mieke on Unsplash


  1. You have ideas, you have unique perspectives, you have offerings to the world- you just have to uncover them.
  2. Remove the resistance and make recording down ideas easy.
  3. Get used to practicing idea generation and force yourself to sit in the chair every day.
  4. Feed yourself from others. Get inspired and learn from reading lots.
  5. Ideas are no use just sitting there. Get them out and see what the world has to say.

“If you are a writer, or want to be a writer, this is how you spend your days — listening, observing, storing things away, making your isolation pay off. You take home all you’ve taken in, all that you’ve overheard, and you turn it into gold. (Or at least you try.)” — Anne Lamott


About the Creator

Noah Douglas

Perpetually curious.

Journeyman of faith†

Runner, writer, marketer.

Some of my other work ↓

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