Chris Howe has always been creative. As a child, he memorized the dance to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and performed it for his family in their living room. In high school, he joined a group called the Detention Crew with his English teacher. Growing up, it was less of a question and more of a fact that he would make some sort of career out of his creations.
Chris lived for fun, once playing his guitar on a surfboard while his friend was boating and recording it. After he uploaded the trick to YouTube, the video caught on to him Good morning America!, beginning what is now a lucrative and fulfilling life as a videographer, creative director and creator. Chris produces content for over one million fans on YouTube and Instagram, as well as for clients including Mercedes-Benz, Adobe and Google.
To run his channels, Chris has become an idea machine, generating 30 to 40 bankable ideas in a week and then prioritizing the best ones from there. In total, his videos take about a week to make, which means 30 hours of his life is dictated by one decision, so it better be good.
After years of creating, Chris had accumulated not only a deep bank of ideas, but also a wealth of knowledge about ideas. He whittled the 400 tips down to 50, turning them into a deck of cards called “Angeblock” and selling them to his fans.
Here, Chris shares his favorite tips for entrepreneurs and creatives looking for their next great idea.
1. Find your flow state
“Steven Spielberg talked about how he kept a tape recorder in his car, and when he was driving, that’s when he came up with his best ideas,” says Chris. “For me, the best ideas come when I’m in a flow or passive state. He drives, cooks, takes a shower. Those are the places where I feel at ease, already on autopilot.”
Keep a notebook or your phone’s voice recorder handy so you can capture your best ideas when (and wherever) they come.
2. Tell someone your worst idea
There’s always a little part of you that thinks, “No, that will never work,” which prevents you from saying it out loud or working with someone else. What if you let go of thinking that it must be your best idea by admitting how bad you think it is?
Chris says that giving yourself permission just by telling someone else about it is a powerful way to break through a creative block. Chances are, brainstorming will lead to something you really love. And no sweat, if it doesn’t, there will always be another worst idea.
3. Use the same concept but a different tool
Our brain thrives on novelty, and sometimes hitting a creative dead end means shaking it up. For a musician, this might mean writing a song on a guitar instead of a regular piano. A writer could take a day to a typewriter instead of a computer. For Chris, that means shooting with a phone rather than a stand-alone camera.
“There’s a real beauty and humility when you decide to create something in a new environment or with a skill that’s not your best,” says Chris. Think of it as an opportunity to create a new power. it’s about changing the common tools you use in your work every day.
4. Trust your gut
Consider this the equivalent of rock paper scissors, except everyone wins. Chris points to an episode of the TV show The office where one character pressures another to express what he feels from his gut; “Tell me now. 3, 2, 1. Say it now. How do you feel? Now say it.’ We all struggle with trusting our gut, but it’s the strongest indicator we have of who we are and when we know we have something really, really good. So count it and spit what you think. The great idea is probably already there, you’re just holding back.
5. Act on truly valid ideas
In the creator economy, so much content is sponsored, and it’s important for creators to reach out to the brands they want to build a relationship with. But deep down, there’s probably a message you really want to share.
“When people ask me, ‘What’s your favorite video? I always tell them it’s the one where I wrote a poem that meant so much to me and performed it. And that’s because there was a lot of emotion behind it. I cared about everything I said,” says Chris. “When I’ve had the confidence to do something different or an idea that I really wanted to do but was afraid to do, it really came through with the audience, that really speaks volumes for the results.”
6. Unlock your creativity from within
When friends come to Chris for advice, he asks them to share their goals. “A lot of people try to imitate what they’ve seen or ideas that aren’t theirs because we want to live in a country of feeling successful,” he says. “I try to act like a therapist and just ask questions that will exercise their confidence. Because you are the key. you know it deep down, and you have to find a way to unleash your creativity.”