What do you do to generate ideas? If you're like me, you sit staring at a blank page and tap your pen until they eventually spill out along with the ink.
Unfortunately, the ink rarely ever spills this way. And since we're in a creative medium that is driven by the success of good ideas, this certainly poses a humongous problem. How do we solve the dreaded issue of an arid imagination that refuses to produce creative fruit? In this TEDxTokyo talk from 2013, toy developer Shimpei Takahashi offers a fun solution -- a word game that you can play anywhere to combat your artistic stagnation.
The game is called Shiritori and it's a way of generating random words in order to form creative connections -- a game that allows you to develop unique ideas simply by saying words that start with the last letter of the previous one. Here's Takahashi to explain how it works:
What is Shiritori? Take apple, elephant and trumpet, for example. It's a game where you take turns saying words that start with the last letter of the previous word. It's the same in Japanese and English. You can play Shiritori as you like: "neko, kora, raibu, burashi," etc, etc. [Cat, cola, concert, brush] Many random words will come out. You force those words to connect to what you want to think of and form ideas.
Let's try it!
Salt --> Triceratops --> sugar --> red --> dressing
Of course, food is on my mind, since I just ate. So, "salt", "sugar", and "dressing" are all related. "Red" made me think of ketchup, and pretty soon, "Whoa, all of these things are condiments or seasonings you put on food. Triceratops comes from -- I don't know -- I actually think about dinosaurs at least three times a day anyway. What's the unique idea? A set of dinosaur-themed condiment containers that only disperse a small amount per squeeze. (If you have kids, you tend to see fries drowning in platefuls of ketchup a lot.)
This might help a toy developer come up with a weird gadget for a kid, sure, but what about screenwriters and filmmakers? Well, let's try to come up with a unique story idea. I'll avoid the dinos this time. (I said that only because the first word that came to mind was "glass", which lead to "stegosaurus". Oy...)
Umbrella --> Avoid --> Drain --> Necrophiliac --> Cell -->
First of all -- don't judge me. Second, this sounds a little Hitchcockian, right?
Anyway, let's break this down. We've got my setting: it's rainy ("umbrella"), probably dark and unpleasant. Someone's either being chased, hiding, or trying to get away from something or someone ("avoid"). A pivotal scene can happen in a shower ("drain"). The theme is sex and death ("necrophiliac"). There is either a crime being committed or the protagonist is held hostage either physically or mentally ("cell").
We've got so much to work with here and it only took me a few minutes. Of course, you could always use a random word generator, but the benefit of coming up with words on your own is that each word relies on the line of thinking you naturally have. Having a computer choose words at random may help, but they might be too random, whereas with Shiritori you're building upon the train of thought you're already on.
Maybe some of you already use this game, or one like it, to get your creative juices flowing, but if you don't, give it a try and share what you come up with in the comments below!