“I can tell you where to get some ideas if you need them,” Margaret Atwood said to us through Skype. We were listening in a large Chicago office, a group of 50 or so. She was speaking from the southernmost part of Canada, a small island/bird sanctuary on Lake Erie.
“Open your idea cupboard and just take the first one that falls out.” Sam Weller laughed at this. We all did.
Then, we prepared for the real advice:
“Put your left hand on a table and close your eyes. Are you closing your eyes?” Margaret Atwood’s video calling capabilities are limited on the island/bird sanctuary. “Put your right hand in the air and stay like this.”
Sam Weller stayed like this, one hand in the air, waiting for more.
“If you stay like this long enough, you should get an idea eventually.”
No wonder the woman’s a legend.
How Margaret Atwood got Sam Weller to stand with a finger pointed in the air while a room full of people watched was partly Energy BBDO’s doing. The event was part of their free Creative Salon series—an absolute must for Chicago creatives.
But back to the idea of ideas. How do we get them? How do I get one? I want one!
This was the central topic of Sam Weller’s talk and conversation with Atwood. Sam Weller is the official biographer of Ray Bradbury and a damn good storyteller. He told us about delivering flowers to funeral homes as a teenager, how he stumbled upon one of the rarest violins in Chicago and the time Lynne Cheney told him about her dream (set on Mars).
Weller’s advice was simple and practical. Ideas are everywhere. You just need to push yourself out of your introversion to find them. Be curious. Be fearless.
Fearlessness is the heart of creativity.
Consider this: Bradbury never went to college. He was self-taught, reading in libraries three days a week for more than a decade of his life. He took risks, writing screenplays and drawing shopping plaza blueprints, despite never having done those before. His mantra was, “Jump off the cliff and build your wings on the way down.”
Consider this: Weller’s new book, a short story collection in honor of Bradbury, began with a tweet to Neil Gaiman. “Would you be interested?” Talk about building your wings on the way down. The newly released book, Shadow Show, features stories from Gaiman, Atwood, Dave Eggers, Audrey Niffenegger and more.
Consider this: while you likely worked Thursday afternoon, sending email after email, I stepped out of the office. I chased my curiosity. I saw Sam Weller stand with a finger high in the air, waiting for Margaret Atwood to tell him what to do next.
And I got a few ideas.