Organize Your Departure Points

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Updated November 3, 2022

You’re reading an excerpt of Creative Doing, by Herbert Lui. 75 practical techniques to unlock creative potential in your work, hobby, or next career. Purchase now for instant, lifetime access to the book.

Every effort begins somewhere, from some idea, some element of work. The vision of this prompt is to build your own collection of elements that you can apply and combine with others, sometimes more than once.

It’s important to keep these departure points as small as possible. These days, we are blessed with technology that can store and organize all of our departure points.

For example, even though I’d written hundreds of articles in my 20s, many of the ideas—points, stats, and quotes—embedded in them were too interlinked and dense for me to move around and re-use in new ones. My solution to that was to extract the ideas and put them into index cards and Notion for my Zettelkasten note-taking system, which I learned from How to Take Smart Notes by Sönke Ahrens. Each stat would get its own separate index card.

It’s possible to do this with other forms as well. If you’re in the recording arts, you can separately save different elements of songs for easy access. If you’re in visual arts, you can work digitally and do the same by saving elements in different layers or files altogether. Be descriptive in your filename so you know what to search later. I’d highly encourage you to take even just a few minutes to set up a simple system for staying organized.

This can also be as simple as starting a project with a banker’s box—a literal cardboard box—and keeping everything related in there like choreographer and author Twyla Tharp does. Or it could mean setting an hour every Monday to review your notes in your journal and phone.

Combining and connecting are key parts of any creative process. As you go through these departure points, and your mind soaks them in, you’ll notice that new ideas and connections start to emerge.

Say Yes

If you go to an improv comedy class, you’ll see that participants are encouraged to agree to and build upon everybody else’s ideas. Comedian, filmmaker, writer Tina Fey calls this the “Rule of Agreement” in her memoir Bossypants, describing it as a reminder to:

“Respect what your partner has created” and to at least start from an open-minded place. Start with a YES and see where that takes you.

So try saying yes to every prompt or idea from others, at least once. If the need arises, you are free to make modifications and to add an element of your own to the prompt. I would be extremely happy to hear that you’d augmented one of these prompts to fit you better.

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