Give it a name
Then have a conversation.
In life and business coaching, when someone is suffering from Imposter Syndrome, there's a practice often recommended of giving your 'imposter' a name.
Imposter Syndrome, if you've never heard of it, is the widely held feeling that in spite of often overwhelming evidence to the contrary, we can have major doubts about our own competence and abilities.
By naming your imposter you can turn it into a kind of alter-ego. And humanising it means you can confront it, mano a mano. You might also want to give it a spiky name, to differentiate it as the baddie in your own personal story.
'Darth Faker' maybe. (You can have that for free)
Point is, you can then have a conversation with your inner troll, and tell it to go f*** itself. It's remarkably effective in changing your view of yourself.
When I first tried out this technique, it got me thinking about whether this method of sending away bad thoughts could be flipped to invite good ones in.
Ideas, in other words.
Turns out, it can.
I started out playing with the notion of 'what if my elusive idea had a name?'.
What would it be?
Just think of the first thing that comes to mind. Not Dave though - Dave just seems to be the default name whenever anyone asks me to think of a name. Don't get me wrong, It's a good name, a solid name. I happen to know a lot of top Daves.
I'm just saying in this instance it's better to not be too generic.
Anyway, then think about what _____ (insert non-Dave name here) would look like?
How would your idea talk? Would it be loud or quiet? Confident or shy?
Does your idea have any special skills or powers?
Does your idea like you? Or not?
What does your idea do in its spare time?
What's its favourite colour?
Just keep going and going.
And write ALL this down - because when you keep asking these questions of your idea, quite spookily you may reveal the thing you're looking for amongst your random scribblings.
Okay, not necessarily a specific answer - this isn't some Da Vinci Code magic. But it certainly has the power to send you off the beaten track and in a new direction towards what (you didn't know) you were looking for.
Now if this all sounds a bit spoon-bendery, I can confidently tell you it's not. When I started getting results from this, I had a feeling there must be similar tales of this technique from other creatives.
It didn't take long to find that this is very close to the 'character interview' method often used by writers.
The backbone of all good stories are the characters. And when you have to start from scratch for a book or a movie, you need a way to get to know the players first. What is their world view? What motivates them? Why do they want what they want?
Scott Myers' brilliant screenwriting blog Go Into The Story extols the virtues of this and brings together many of the best approaches to character interviewing.
Some of these include imagining a scenario where a news reporter interviews a subject; an employer interviews a job applicant; a therapist has a session with a client; the character (or idea!) writes a monologue.
In summary, have a conversation with your idea and you might be surprised what it reveals to you.
Think of it as your creative imaginary friend.
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