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The Sky is the Limit: Early Idea-Building Tactics

Updated: Apr 13, 2023

If you struggle with writer’s block or knowing where to begin a story, blue-skying is the new early idea-building technique for you.

Nothing compares to the gut-wrenching feeling of staring at a blank page with absolutely nothing on the horizon. Often, creatives limit themselves with the desire to be perfect. As a creative writing student, I can personally say this is how the early idea process tends to start for me; not knowing where to begin and finding fault in every potential proposal. The pressure to create can be suffocating and waiting for perfect ideas to arise simply isn’t cutting it anymore.

What is Blue Skying?

Meriam Webster defines blue skying as, “offering ideas that are conceived by unrestrained imagination or optimism.” Basically, blue-skying is a process of brainstorming with no limits, no brushing off an idea as not good enough or too hard to accomplish.

Blue skying is a tactic proven to work in successful films. Most famously, BJ Novak, writer, and co-executive producer of the hit television series “The Office,” is an avid advocate for blue skying in the creative process. In an interview from 2015, Novak explains that each season of the show would start with the ‘blue sky period’, the period of ‘what ifs.’ He also highlights that some ideas only work until you test them; writing is truly just a guess until materialized into film.

BJ Novak’s Tips

The most important takeaway from Novak’s interview is the importance of finding love for an idea. Finding true excitement is essential for motivation to get through the problems you will face. It is hindering to start at the problem areas, typically addressing an idea in a negative light will lead to burnout. If you begin with the positive, as Novak suggests, every piece of the story following the original idea will have to match in quality. Moreover, love is the binding force between creativity and production; ideas with drive behind them will stretch much further than those without.

Examples of Blue Skying

But what does blue skying look like in practice? This tactic seems to work best in a group setting, where ideas can bounce off each other and creative conversation can be facilitated. In a group setting, try listing out any idea that pops into your head on a sticky note and display all the notes next to each other on a board. This will provide the opportunity to observe other creative’s processes and generate new connections from their ideas. The goal is to produce a plethora of possibilities, no matter how unrealistic they may seem. Another timeless tactic is to set a timer and write for five minutes straight without picking up your pencil. Let ideas flow without hesitation or time to second guess them, write everything down without judgment or criticism.

So next time you sit down with the motivation to write a story but find yourself stuck, consider blue-skying and set your ideas free. After all, the sky's the limit.

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