Going Meta

My attempt at a daily writing exercise is only one part of my overall approach to honing my skills.

Another exercise that I’ve adopted for some time now is about idea generation. I’ve now read about variations on this technique in several places, and have adopted my own variation.

The theory is simply that aspects of your mind are very similar to a muscle: exercise strengthens it. This is one way to look at meditation – a daily exercise in focus and presence strengthens your ability to do so throughout the rest of the day. I can confirm that, in my experience at least, this relationship appears to exist.

My approach to the idea generation exercise is simply this: each day write down five ideas. The five ideas are generally ideas for blog posts, but needn’t be limited to that. Naturally I get plenty of ideas for Ask Leo! from reader questions, but every so often I’ll find myself musing about things that perhaps people aren’t asking about, but should still know about.

As with most brainstorming techniques — and this is, in a way, a solo brainstorm — there aren’t any bad ideas, at least not to start. The concept is to simply get the brain used to being able to come up with new ideas, new relationships, new thoughts, on a regular basis. The results can be discarded or collected or anything in between — the goal is simply to have done the exercise.

As an example, here are the five ideas I wrote down this morning (the parenthetical comments are explanations I’ve added for this post):

  • Making luck. (My belief is that one does not “make” luck, but rather by being prepared and open to the opportunities that naturally occur in life one can appear very, very lucky.)
  • Accepting traffic delays. (Some get frustrated. I relax. It’s out of your control anyway.)
  • Five ideas – why / how / whatnot. (Transformed into the blog post you’re reading now.)
  • Preparing for “The Big One”. (How preparing for “the big one” — the expected big earthquake in this area that may or may not happen in our lifetimes — has this wonderful side effect of being prepared for all the “little ones” that happen.)
  • When in doubt, go meta. (I often slow down when I get to number five. This was a random grasp along the lines of “when trying to come up with ideas, how about an idea about generating ideas?” This probably acted as “permission” to act on #3 above.)

I collect my ideas. Each day I write them down in a moleskin notebook. Once a month I review them and enter the ones that stand the test of one month’s time into an Evernote notebook. I have over 150 collected so far. If I’m ever “stuck” I need only pick something from that list.

It’s possible that I may perform a second culling, so to speak. Maybe once a year I’ll go through the list and see what stands the test of one year’s time.

But even if I don’t, my idea generation muscle will have been getting regular exercise.

And that’s the entire point.

Writing. Idea generation. Now I’m wondering what other skills or habits would benefit from this type of regular focus.

How about you?


2 thoughts on “Going Meta”

    • I’ve experimented with both. I’m finding that paper forces my brain to think and work a little differently, and feels easier to be creative. But either would work.

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