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32 Traits of Creative People
Robert Alan Black : Zap Out of the Blue

Zap Out of the Blue

By Robert Alan Black, Ph.D.

"I was taking a shower
when the idea came to me!"

"I was just waking up
when the idea came to me!"

"I was jogging
when the idea came to me!"

"I was drinking
my 9th cup of coffee when the idea came to me!"

Have any of these happened to you?

Have you been walking, jogging, showering, dreaming, driving when "Zap! Out of the Blue" came an idea, a solution, a hint of an idea?

Most of us have these things happen to us. Some of us pay attention to them and some of us turn them into solutions that often lead to great success and possibly fame. Yet the greatest percentage of us say "ho hum another strange idea" and let them go.

There are many theories about why these happen...

  1. our muse(es) give them to us
  2. God gives them to us
  3. our subconscious gives them to us after we have consciously worked very hard on a problem and finally have let it go.

Are you taking advantage of your "Zaps From Out of the Blue"? Do you write them down immediately? Do you put them into action immediately or reprioritize and set them into your plans for that day or soon?

If you aren't, why aren't you?

If you are how are you capturing them?

Do you write them down on anything that is handy: a piece of paper, an index card, a Post-It™ note, the shower stall glass, the mirror? Do you then plan for when you will do something about them?

These are your sub-conscious creative mind helping you. Let it help you while you work with it.

First for the next 7 to 14 days take 15 minutes each day to think about what are your "Zaps!" Write them down. Examine them to see if there is a pattern, a specific time, any specific conditions. Are you always relaxed? Are you working on other things unrelated to the problem the ideas come for at the time? Are you practicing any ritual or habit... yoga, walking, exercising, drinking coffee, sipping on a glass of wine?

The answers to these questions very well may give you clues for how to deliberately cause more "Zaps!" to happen for and to you.

Second, develop a system(s) or method(s) for recording the "Zap!" ideas when they happen. Make sure you have the necessary tools and resources to collect the ideas.

Third, take a few moments when they happen to jot down one to 3 to 5 steps of how you will take the idea(s) further towards solutions. Perhaps you might take a moment to think about the resources you will need. Or you might take a moment or two to visualize or imagine yourself doing the idea and look for the resources you will need including the people.

Fourth, DO IT!!!

An example of using this plan happened the morning I wrote this article. I was practicing one of my morning rituals/habits reviewing over-night email messages, downloading overflow from my server's computer to mine while I am reading from a book on creativity.

This morning I was reading Paul Plsek's new Creativity, Innovation and Quality published by ASQ while my computer was downloading files. One phrase "Zap!"-ed from the page "Zap from the Blue" at me. I had just been reading a message from the editor of CIA, Andy van Gundy, who was asking about an article for the February issue.

The "Zap!" jumped right at me. Here was the idea that sparked this short article. I wrote down a Post-It note to use later. Took a couple moments to think when I would use it and when I would write the article.

I chose to push things aside because I was leaving to go out of town for a few days to work with a client and probably wouldn't be able to get to it for a few days. I immediately started writing down my thoughts into an email message to Andy. I got it about 3/4's done when I hit a bad combination of keys and disconnected myself from my Internet server ............... and lost everything I had written.

I then quickly made a couple notes about what I had already written and decided I would do it later after I got a few things that had to be done during the next two hours and could not be done at any other time.

In other words, writing this article was an example of practicing what I am "preaching". Learn how you get your "Zaps!". Capture them. Then use them.

The result? You'll be using much more of your creativeness and working much less. Best wishes for a creative month. •

© 1990 Robert Alan Black, Ph.D.

Robert Alan BlackRobert Alan Black, Ph.D. is a Creative Thinking Consultant and his company is Cre8ng People, Places & Possibilities. More »

5/9/06