Isaac Asimov: How to Never Run Out of Ideas Again

Consistent, unswerving, constant…

Three words that could describe the quantity of Asimov’s writing.

Asimov talked about his ability to churn out such significant content in his autobiography, It’s Been a Good Life.

This was where he described the following six tactics to never run out of great ideas.

Follow these strategies and you’ll have the overflowing productivity of Asimov!

1. Never Stop Learning

Asimov wrote widely on a range of topic including the Bible, chemistry, physics and science fictions works.

Some becoming major motion pictures such as I, Robot which starred Will Smith.

In I, Robot, the lead character was a broken police detective who discovered a new mission in life after losing his arm in an accident; the Robot saved him!

Asimov continuously read, studied, questioned and explored even after gaining a PhD. in biochemistry from Columbia University.

Asimov was self-taught.

He learned the secret to creativity which was to ingest as much knowledge as he could on a daily basis.

When Asimov found a topic that interested him, he followed that topic from the foundational concepts to the most tangential applications.

As Asimov famously said with great humor, “People who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do.”

Learning is like a bank account – keep making deposits and your life will show great interest!

2. Don’t Fight the Stuck

There are those times when writers, entrepreneurs, researchers, mechanics or athletes… hit the wall!

These are the times when we can’t find the right words, don’t see how to innovate on the product, the pieces don’t fit or we just can’t jog another step.

This is referred to as ‘the Stuck’.

Asimov experienced the blocks just like we all do.

He created a tactic that allowed him to become one of the most expansive writers known; he did not let getting stuck at one point in his writing kill the entire project.

He did not curl up into a ball and cry in the corner, nor did he complain that he was unfit for the task (remember #1 Never Stop Learning?) because he kept moving forward.

Asimov developed the capacity to switch his focus to something else he was interested in, take a break, move on for a fixed period and then return with new ideas, fresh insight, and increased energy. The ability to refresh his mind was attributed to his ability to apply the knowledge he had gained in new situations. This is commonly called  ‘wisdom’ and Asimov said,

“The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.”

The mental space Asimov created by allowing his focus to go elsewhere gave him a renewed energy the next time he returned.

3. Beware the Resistance

Asimov understood that time is king, and to have that royalty meant he could understand things quickly. “I am not a speed reader. I am a speed understander,” Asimov said about his willingness to take a great deal of time reading, thinking and writing. Asimov didn’t fear the size of his writing projects and he didn’t see his lack of understanding as a blockage to the success of his writing. Asimov understood that at times he did not know enough and that time would be required to learn, edit and reshape his projects.

This brought no self-doubt, no fear, no self-judgement to his self-esteem. Mark Twain said, “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not the absence of fear.” Asimov understood that courage and the quality of his writing increased with the time spent on it and some projects took greater time. This did not mean he was deficient in any way. The criticism, disparagement by others, or even the reproach of his work by his peers did not make Asimov doubt his ability to create something new, fresh and exciting again. Even if one project faltered, he would refocus and begin again.

4. Lower Your Standards by Making MORE Stuff

“You don’t need to predict the future. Just choose a future — a good future, a useful future — and make the kind of prediction that will alter human emotions and reactions in such a way that the future you predicted will be brought about. Better to make a good future than predict a bad one,”

Said Asimov regarding perfectionism. Asimov would say, “Get it done!”

Firstly, begin with self-belief and know you that you have it in you to begin and complete the goals and dreams inside you. Secondly, know that you are unique and you were created with special talents, abilities and gifts that no one else has.

Thirdly, understand that your business, your writing, your projects, your work etc. benefit from the imperfection that naturally comes from your special talents when applied. There can only be one YOU so don’t expect perfection or even seek it. Get it done. The way you deliver your work will be perfect for you and others may have their own views. Don’t care. You learn best through trial and error, and at times getting it done is far better than getting it done too late in the pursuit of perfection. Create more and don’t aim for perfection.

5. The Secret Sauce

Asimov confided to a friend at one time, “Self-education is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there is.” Asimov pondered, thought, considered and even brooded on ideas, at times to the point that he was sick of them! Have you ever had trouble sleeping as new idea rolled around in your head or a different way of addressing a conversation was replayed again and again? That is your creativity being applied. Jot down your ideas, see the connections and then make an action. The secret sauce is in the consistent thinking.

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