I read today a great article from Amy Peikoff on the inspiration for her wonderful side project, @AynRandBot, a Twitter account that posts several quotes a day from Rand’s books, letters, interviews and talks and has over 20,000 followers.
If you’ve ever struggled to come up with ideas for projects that excite you, Amy’s thoughts can help:
One day early in July I was on Twitter, when I noticed that someone I follow had retweeted something from an account called @TSElibot (after T.S. Eliot, the famous poet, playwright and literary critic). I was unaware of there being anything similar for Ayn Rand, and so I registered the account @AynRandBot.
It seems almost stupidly simple when Amy puts it like this. Notice that she didn’t sit around and try to come up with ideas in a vacuum. In fact, she probably wasn’t even looking for an idea. She just saw something interesting that someone else was doing, abstracted the basic principle (Twitter bot for an interesting thinker) and applied it in a new way to create a project around something she cares about.
My friend Chuck Grimmett has written on this well:
If you want to be creative and come up with ideas, the best thing you can do is engage the creative ideas that are already out there. Not because you want to copy or emulate them, but because creative ideas catalyze other creative ideas.
I think this is how most creative side projects are born today. The creator finds a concrete idea that they can remix with other ideas to create something of their own. As Austin Kleon writes,
Every new idea is just a mashup or a remix of one or more previous ideas.
My highly popular Bitcoin Cash Resources page was born at of seeing tons of resource pages on Product Hunt and Jameson Lopp’s Bitcoin page. The currently defunct No Hipster Stocks came from seeing what they’ve done at Unsplash. DesignPickle came from abstracting the basic ideas that made WPCurve successful and applying them somewhere new.
If I were to put together an “ideation” workshop, I would have the attendees read some articles, review some websites, check out businesses, look at art online, and just spend a few hours browsing on their own and noting down what they saw. Then I would have then take the core principles behind each of the things they have noted down and find another thing to apply them to.
For example, if someone saw Ryan Holiday’s Daily Stoic project, the most obvious project idea related to that could be something like Daily Objectivist, or Daily Minimalist, or anything else that person cared about that could fit into some kind of daily “ideas” newsletter.
Or maybe they saw Shopenahaur’s Dialogue On the Absurdities of Religion. Now they’ve got a perfect template to use as a starting point to write a dialogue of their own.
The ideation process is that easy. You just do what Amy did when she saw T.S. Eliot Bot. And the wonderful thing you’ll start to notice when you think about projects like this is that you’ll never run out of ideas. You will see an idea in everything you do, everything you see, and every piece of content you consume. There will never be enough time in the day to take them all on, so just get started, make one and then make another, and please, when the ideas come, write them down before you forget.