How do you start a project from scratch?
Maybe you make lists.
Maybe you draw it out or dream it up.
Maybe you start by creating a budget (I’m sure somebody does that, right?)
Where I work? We have a creative meeting. In fact, we live and die by what we call “creative boards.” I don’t think any talk would get presented, any script would get written, or any video would get produced without them.
A creative board is basically a black bulletin board that hold and organize all of our ideas, and they’re worth gold (or about $100 here.)
Of course, not every project is a group project, and lately, I’ve been having some creative meetings on my own. You can find my $2 personal creative board here . But whether you’re in a room of 20 or a room by yourself, a creative meeting can be helpful.
I think that’s why one of the MOST COMMON questions I get is this:
How do you have a creative meeting?
While there are a LOT of right answers and not many “wrong ways” to have a creative meeting, for me it starts with deciding what you’re building. Maybe you’re designing a talk to be presented on a stage. Maybe, like we have, you’re planning a camp or an event. Maybe you’re writing a book, building a house, or creating a conference. No matter what it is, make sure everyone in the meeting KNOWS what they’re meeting about. Then, try this:
1. Throw a bunch of random ideas on the board. Hopes. Dreams. Unicorns. Silly ideas. All of it is ok. Some of the best ideas are the ones that don’t seem feasible yet. Once you have all your ideas on the board, flip it over to a clean slate and…
2. Define the categories. Often we write sermons. So our categories are the five parts of that sermon. Maybe you’re planning an event and your categories are key areas of the event like lodging, food, programming, transportation, etc. No matter what you’re planning or building, chances are there are some big buckets where you need ideas. Decide what those are and place them at the top of your board. Then…
3. Fill the buckets. Think of each category like a bucket for ideas. Go back to your big board of random ideas. Do any of those fit naturally into the categories you’ve created? Put them there. If not, don’t throw them away. You may find later that you need to add a category or save that idea for later. Once you’ve sorted out all the ideas, then step back. What’s missing in each category to make it a success? As a group (or as yourself), brainstorm ideas and fill each category until it feels like a 10/10.
4. Rearrange as needed. Maybe the items on your board need to happen in a certain order. Maybe it’s helpful to arrange them from soonest to latest or most important to least important under each category. Take the time to swap cards when it’s helpful.
5. Refine. Refine. Refine. Not every idea is a good one and not every creative card should stay on your board.Sometimes you know right away what to remove. If not, sleep on it, come back to it, and decide what makes things more complicated, more expensive, less clear, or less helpful. When you identify a card isn’t as helpful as it once seemed, pull it off the board. Maybe you’re comfortable throwing ideas away. I’m not. In fact, the fear of losing an idea may make me keep it on the board too long. So, I’ve started keeping a pile of unused ideas. They come off the board and into my pile. That way I won’t forget, but I also won’t leave them to complicate my current project.
When you're done, your creative board might look like this.
But it never starts that way. It starts as more of a mess and that’s okay.
For me, and maybe for you, it’s all part of the creative process.