Creativity is hard work, but you can strengthen your creative muscles with a simple exercise. Here’s how it works:

Step 1: Select a word at random, perhaps by opening the dictionary with your eyes closed and touching the tip of a pencil to the page. The best words are simple, visual, and offer lots of opportunities for connections and association.

Step 2: Think up as many different words associated with your random word as you can. If your word is bottle, think of the different uses of bottles, different shapes, the ways people use bottles, how they are packaged, and so forth.

Step 3: Force some connections. For example, bottles can be filled up. Are you letting the people around you fill up your head with ideas? Empty bottles make noise. How much of what you say amounts to just so much unproductive noise? Bottles are recyclable. What ideas can you adapt and reuse in different forms?

Step 4: List your ideas and think about them. Which ones are most interesting? Which have the greatest potential? Do this exercise on a regular basis, and you’ll start seeing ideas and connections everywhere you look.