Brainstorming is a tricky thing. In the advertising world, we try to bottle the process into a sort of scientific method … cramming a lot of smart, creative folks into a room and hoping for the best. But brainstorming for a client or a product is very different than brainstorming for a novel (or poem), where the intent is to let the mind wander rather than focus it in on a solution.

In a season one episode of “Mad Men,” Don Draper tells a writer to “think about it as long and hard as you can … examine it from every angle … put your heart and soul into it. Then go do something else. It will just come to you.” (Or something along those lines.)

And mostly he’s right. The best ideas come to us when we’re busy doing other things: walking the dog, playing with the kids at the park, falling asleep on the couch.

Other than hard drugs, there are several ways to train your brain to loosen up, and to capture the results:

  • Go On A Walk:
    Make sure to carry a notepad with you in case the lightning flashes. Vary the time of day. Take the wife, the kids, the dog, a Frisbee, or all of the above … but make sure you get some time to go off by yourself and think.
  • Read Poetry:
    Really great poetry is like a riddle that needs solving. While your mind is doing the mental back flips required to decode whatever the hell that poet is trying to say, you often get flashes of insight that are great fodder for your own poems, stories, or projects.
  • Write Down Your Dreams:
    Keep a notepad by the bedside and when you wake up in the morning, write down everything you can remember.
  • Learn Something New:
    Learning a new skill (like karate, or transcendental meditation … even juggling) forces your tired old brain to make connections that weren’t there previously. When these connections are made, you suddenly start thinking in new & exciting ways and the ideas begin to flow.

I have to run now, I’m off to my juggling class.