How to Have More Good Ideas: Uncanny Creativity 34

“Ideas come from everything” Alfred Hitchcock

If you want to have more good ideas, then have lots of ideas. Brainstorming is only a part of the story.

Step 1: Look for missed opportunities.

If you’re trying to have more ideas, there’s a penalty for not having as many options.

Framing: We tend to come up with ideas based on how they’re presented. 93% of PhD students registered early when given a penalty fee for late registration. Only 67% registered early when identical pricing was presented as a discount. If these students would have thought of the missed opportunity of early registration, they would have saved money.

Consider more options to counter framing. How could the advantages be a disadvantage? What’s positive about the problems? For Example when I’m painting, when the work not looking the way it imagined. Colors are off, anatomy problems. Frame this as an opportunity.This is chance to learn about anatomy and color!

Step 2: Find ways your initial ideas don’t work.

Explore opposites. Look at ideas that were you’re against or are dismissing. Do those have any advantages

Confirmation bias is bad. Are you familiar with confirmation bias? It’s the notion that we tend to try to prove our initial ideas. In the original 1960s experiment, when given the numbers “2-4-6” participants guessed that the pattern was even numbers. Then they tried to test this rule by proposing more even numbers such as “4-8-10”. Researchers would confirm that these even all fit the pattern. Of course, then participants stopped guessing. Satisfied that they had found the correct answer. Most participants wouldn’t guess the pattern which was … increasing numbers!

Cliches are not bad. Consider writing down and sketch all of the easy cliche ideas. Explore ideas that contradict your initial ideas. When I’m designing a travel magazine, I’ll look at travel magazines. That’s the obvious place to start. Then look at any other kind of design. And photos. And fashion. Why does the color scheme have to look like everything else?

“If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old”  Peter F. Drucker, management consultant, professor and writer

Opportunity cost is a thing. When I became a graphic designer, professors told me that I needed to be an artist, or a designer, or a pianist. I figure I could be all of these things. I can play piano as a hobby. Work as a designer. Paint on the side and do occasional art shows. And I can blog and podcast. And have friends and family. Don’t miss out on valuable experience because you didn’t consider your opportunity costs!

Step 3: Combine ideas from various inspirations.

If you have an “Either/Or” problem. How can you change it to “And”?

Avoid the either/or fallacy.  Sometimes there’s tendency is to think of opportunities as one or the other. Can you do both?

We also sometimes tend to see our options as all good or all bad. Nothing is perfect and there’s often something to learn in your attempts. A mediocre idea could be executed really well. Or be the spark of even more options

“Different people have different ideas. We need to kill them—the ideas, not the people. The people we just need to torture.” ― Jarod Kintz, This Book is Not FOR SALE

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.

How to Finish What You Started: Uncanny Creativity 33

Kari E. McLean (‏@MsMcLean1) shared How to Collaborate More Effectively on twitter. I replied asking her if she had any thoughts to add:

“@sketchee Yes: Getting on the same page from the start. Liked yr thoughts on listening, collective intelligence, & constructive criticism”

Cameron Sutter wrote in response to Fear of Failure:

“Fear of failure is one of my favorite things to talk about. So many people’s creativity is crippled by that fear. Usually they don’t even start, but lots of time they start and then don’t finish. It takes real moxy to go for your goals and push past that fear to a complete product.”

“Creativity Inc. has some great words to say about the fear of failure. “When it comes to creative endeavors, the concept of zero failures is worse than useless. It is counterproductive.” — Ed Catmull”

“We have to fail in order to succeed or else we aren’t doing anything meaningful. The cost of failure is an investment in our future (paraphrased from Ed Catmull).”

Last fall I showed some of my art work and fashion design work at a local art gallery and promoted it to my coworkers. I majored in fine art and painting. I only took up sewing a year before the show, making my own clothes and wearing them. To me it just seemed like a fun way to go having custom shirts and pants in fabrics I picked out. Didn’t seem like people noticed I made my own things or tailored my clothes. My coworker cut out a quote from Matisse in a magazine that said “It Takes Courage to Be Creative”. I loved that.

Let’s figure out why you’re not finishing and find your courage to be creative. Why aren’t you taking the next step. Each of the following tips asks first why and then how to tackle that roadblock.

1. Is it perfectionism?

Perfection is impossible. Set a deadline or a certain number of hours. Whatever is done at the end of the deadline is it.  With my art I love the site Illustration Friday because it gives you one week to start and finish a project. When we did drawing classes in school, we’d do a series of short five or ten poses to sketch. Try setting small goals that you know you can easily finish.

Another aspect of perfectionism is not realizing all that you did accomplish. You made it this far, you bought your supplies, you started a project. You woke up this morning, you tied your shoe laces. You finish things all the time. Perfectionism is an excuse,

2. Is it not sticking to your deadlines?

An external deadline helps! Tell your friends, family, social networks that you’re starting a project and you’re going to finish it by that date. You might even have set deliverables, like daily or weekly progress reports. However, this isn’t about having other people police you. Be accountable to yourself and be prepared to let other people witness your how you do with that.

3. Is it time management?

Making a specific schedule or plan is often very difficult for a lot of people. I’ve struggled with it, I’m sure we all have. One way to manage this is to set a frequency in your head and stick to it. You might make a mark in your sketchbook daily for ideas.

4. Is this a priority?

Is this a project you actually care about? It’s okay to not finish artwork or a design or move on. Leave it as is Just call it done as is, sign it, and hang it on your fridge. Imagine you received a C in math in high school, yet high school is over. So is this painting. Would you spend your life regretting it?

5. Do you have a clear and attainable goal?

If you’re goal is to create the Sistine Chapel and be the next Michaelangelo, it’s time to get real. Look at your current set of skills, pick one thing that you’re trying to learn on this project and then try at it until you know more than you did at the start. Learning doesn’t mean being the greatest master of all time. It just means getting something out of it. Change what it means to finish. Take some time to think about what finishing really means to you. Be okay and even happy with where you are and trust your future self to make it even further.

6. Are you afraid to handle criticism?

You’re already handling criticism at this point, it’s just that it’s coming from your own thoughts. Your thoughts aren’t you though and they are often fear. Rather than fear judgement learn to embrace it. For more the episode I did with in depth tips for handling criticism will be linked in the show notes on As I said then, be positive, listen carefully. Your reaction to criticism is a choice, you also are allowed internally decide that certain views aren’t worth dealing with. Just be polite, thank people for looking at your work and move on. What other people say is often just as much about them as it is about you. Not everyone will like you and even if they love you, they might not like your work. That’s not personal, that’s just who they are.

7. Are you too ambitious?

Knowing what you  know now, was it even possible to finish any sooner?

8. Have you started to second guess your idea?

When you started this was an idea you loved. Your painting was going to be the best, funniest, coolest, and awesomest. Now as you face challenge after challenge you’re wondering if it’s all worth it. The time for ideas is over however, so move forward and just take step by step.

9. Is it the fear of failure?

When dealing with the fear of failure, I recommend these six steps:

Step 1: Test the beliefs that cause you fear.

Step 2: Learn from where you are, ask why or how.

Step 3: Be positive and grateful that you were in the position to go as far as you have.

Step 4: Identify your fears.

Step 5: Figure out another step that you’re willing to take

Step 6: Be kind to yourself.

10. Are you overwhelmed?

Just take a single step. A small stroke. And if that’s as far as you can go, then stop and call it finished. Quitting and finishing are often the exact same thing. It’s okay to just finish and decide to end where you are.

If you like this show, do me a favor and share it!

Uncanny Creativity is an art and design productivity podcast helping you to be more imaginative everyday. Brian E. Young is a magazine art director and artist in Baltimore, Maryland. If you have a design and creativity question I can help answer, send me your letters by e-mail, Facebook or Twitter.

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.

Why think like an artist? 9 Benefits of Imagination: Uncanny Creativity 32


I’ve mentioned so many ways that artists can benefit from thinking like an improv comic, putting ourselves in the audience’s shoes, and how to be inspired by others in general. Why would anyone want to think like us? It turns out that it’s a unique gift of human creativity that we practiced so well is putting ourselves in others shoes. Artists imagine being more than what we are in the present. Imagination has huge benefits.

“Looking back, I guess I used to play-act all the time. For one thing, it meant I could live in a more interesting world than the one around me.” Marilyn Monroe

1. Think Healthier

Mental and physical. Amanda Enayati wrote for CNN about innovation, passion, and our health. The studies mentioned in the article find a well established link between mental and physical health. Rather than blaming circumstances and life, artists focus on self-responsibility and believe in their own abilities as tools to do things differently.

2. Connect with community

We don’t create in a vacuum. We create to share. And we create because we’ve seen what others share. Artists have seen art and believe that there’s something there that we could do too. Creating is social, even if we often do our part in solitude. Art is about story telling, sharing our experiences, listening to other people’s experience and viewing them through their eyes.

“It’s that social impact that leads to [the arts] having an economic impact,” Mark J. Stern, a professor in the School of Social Policy & Practice told the Penn Current of his research discussing social impacts of art in communities. “Arts and culture [play] an important role in improving the lives of ordinary people, and we should be able to measure it.”

Related: How to Collaborate More Effectively: Uncanny Creativity Podcast 29

3. Feel Less Fear

We’re less afraid of problems when we are creative. We start to trust our ability to find solutions. We define hurt and failure as “iteration” as we found out in the podcast episode about facing the fear of failure.

4. Save money

As an artist, we can create to fill in the gaps for ourselves rather than buy things. Those of us who work in the arts don’t earn as much. It’s not hard to imagine that those who choose to earn less are less compelled to spend. Creative solutions are often just cheap ones.

5. Freedom

As an artist we have no real rules. Even the rules we have like composition, art, we are free to break and explain away. Or to leave to the viewers imagination. We learned to color outside the lines. We even ask who put the lines there. Artists ask why we would even want to color inside of the lines.

6. Self awareness

Expression is what art is about. To express ourselves we have to explore ourselves, live in our thoughts. Research by the Manchester Business School linked creativity to Idea generation, personality, motivation, and confidence

7. Humility

We face critiques, we face clients, people look at our art and try to improve. Brant Waldeck in a brief blog post explaining why we need to be creative. His three reasons to be thankful for humility? We’ll strive to get better, we’ll be open to suggestions, and we respect ourselves and gain respect via humility. We see how subjective life is. We learn to value our unique point of view. Artists are less threatened by other views.

8. Self control

Think of the repeated actions it takes to be a creative. We might not think of these habits as within our control, some of us see these as necessary drug like passion. We schedule our lives and make purely creativity a priority.

9. Sleuthing

We artists are able of looking through things new points of views. This makes us great problem solvers. We are great at reinterpreting. In a study where students were selected to visit a museum, the students showed stronger critical thinking skills and social tolerance according to the new york times.

“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.” J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

Uncanny Creativity is an art and design productivity podcast helping you to be more imaginative everyday. Brian E. Young is a magazine art director and artist in Baltimore, Maryland. If you have a design and creativity question I can help answer, send me your letters by e-mail, Facebook or Twitter.

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.

Face The Fear of Artistic Failure in 6 Steps: Uncanny Creativity 31

Part of being a successful artist is knowing that you’re going to fail and having the tools to deal with it. Fear of failure can negatively impact motivation and attitude to learn, according to a study led by the Bilkent University (Turkey). Those who expressed a higher degree of fear about failing were less likely to adopt goals for personal interest and development. They were also more likely to cheat and less likely to learn. How can we handle our fear as part of the process of success?

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Thomas Edison

Step 1: What are some realistic or helpful views?

Test the beliefs that cause your fear. gives the following tips to avoid perfectionist thoughts: First, identify the perfectionist thoughts. Then list alternative thoughts, thinking about the pros and cons of both the original thoughts and your internal. Now with your choices in mind you’re empowered to pick a more realistic or helpful view.

Step 2: What did I learn?

Redefine success as learning. If your aim is learn, according to Forbes magazine, you’re always succeeding and never technically fail.

“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.”
-Henry Ford

Step 3: What are the positive things?

Try to see yourself as positive and practice gratitude. The field of psychology has moved away just treating mental illness. Almost 1,000 articles published in peer-reviewed journals between 2000 and 2010 focused on well-being, pride, forgiveness, happiness, mindfulness and psychological strength according to the American Psychology Association.

While positivity doesn’t solve everything, there’s growing research showing there are benefits. We don’t have to be roaring smiling optimists.  Every glass full is half empty and half full. Acknowledge both. On a truly bad day where things really did go wrong, can we still see what good is happening?

Step 4: What am I afraid of?

Allow yourself to be afraid, recognize that it’s common and manageable. According to research by UC Berkeley psychology professor Martin Covington, the fear of failure is directly linked to your self-worth. Noticing that we can face the feeling of fear, that it’s not really the end of the world, makes us less likely to avoid it. According to the book Getting the Love You Want by Harville Hendrix, this fear is a holdover from our primitive ancestors when fear kept us alive.

Step 5: What am I willing to do?

Emphasize effort instead of current ability. A study by the University of NC Greensboro found that those who emphasize effort over natural ability are motivated more to succeed.

Step 6: How can I be kind to myself?

Encourage self compassion.  Research also found those who practice self-compassion recover more quickly from failure and are likely to try new things.
What would you say to encourage a friend? Treat yourself as a friend by being kind to yourself, remind yourself that you’re not alone, and by being mindful and present in the current moment as if you were an outside and loving observer. To be a success we must decide that success is possible.

“All boundaries are conventions, waiting to be transcended. One may transcend any convention if only one can first conceive of doing so.” – David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas.

Rewrite your story with these questions

  1. What are some realistic or helpful views?
  2. What did I learn?
  3. What are the positive things?
  4. What am I afraid of?
  5. What am I willing to do?
  6. How can I be kind to myself?


Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.

Picking Up Where You Left Off: Uncanny Creativity 30

Sticking with your hobbies and side projects is tough at times. We have so much going on in our lives and trying to fit in all of the things we want is a challenge. We can fit it all in, just not at the same time. What is the key to doing everything?

Prioritizing. Inconsistency with your timing is okay. It’s going to happen. This is an opportunity to evaluate where you’re spending your time. Make real decisions to change who and what you spend you time on. It has to come from somewhere. If you’re not sure where the time goes. Decide clearly what your individual needs are. Needs are food, water, and shelter. Television, travel, and even time with loved ones are not actually needs. Evaluate how you get your needs. You do need to eat, yet you don’t have to prepare a three course dinner seven days a week for your family. Are there ways to change your wants to shift your time and create time for your hobby?

“I never put off till tomorrow what I can possibly do – the day after.”
― Oscar Wilde

Roadblocks. Do you really want to do it at all. Dedicate time to what you can. In the beginning, just concentrate on spend five minutes a day to each of your problems. Read and research always makes me feel better about tackling most problems. Don’t get stuck in the research phase though! Write down ideas and notes where ever you are. I use my sketchbook or my smart phone to jot notes where ever I am. This isn’t just research at that point, it’s planning.

Tell everyone you know. Encourage support from your friends and family. Be positive even if you’re afraid of other people’s reactions. You know it’s important to you no matter how people react. Directly ask them motivate you and accept any matter what response they have as an incentive to continue.

Cut yourself slack. If you miss your deadline, skip a day, just make a new plan Are the problems really bigger than the successes? They may feel that way sometimes, yet in reality what’s “important” is really just an illusion of our minds

The next step. Figure out one next step you can do. One step. This could be to write down your plans. If I’m a painter, what do I need to really do to make this happen. Start simple! If you dive in with  elaborate goals, you’ll be discourage. Maybe even the goal is too daunting. Perhaps today I won’t start the Mona Lisa. How about if I just scribbling what I see around me on a piece of paper. Make your first steps as simple as possible. Jot down your next step ideas so when you have a free moment you can just do one.

What is stopping you from meeting your goal? Stop looking for that “new” idea to answer this question. Look to  what you know, what you’re already confident about.  Thin about what you’ve done well and return to it. This podcast is one of the more popular things I’ve done. It works. People like it. So here I am. When you take breaks, take a moment to think what your next step might be.

“Time is an equal opportunity employer. Each human being has exactly the same number of hours and minutes every day. Rich people can’t buy more hours. Scientists can’t invent new minutes. And you can’t save time to spend it on another day. Even so, time is amazingly fair and forgiving. No matter how much time you’ve wasted in the past, you still have an entire tomorrow.”
― Denis Waitley

Finally, make sure you have fun! Sometimes we all are too serious about our hobbies and goals. If you miss out on a goal or deadline, you can just start on your new goal. Let yourself have fun.

Uncanny Creativity is an art productivity podcast helping you to be more imaginative everyday. Brian E. Young is a magazine art director and artist in Baltimore, Maryland. If you have a design and creativity question I can help answer, send me your letters by e-mail, Facebook or Twitter.

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.