“You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club.”
– Jack London.
You create things every day without thinking.
Whether it be a thoughtful ‘happy birthday’ post on a friend’s Facebook wall, a nagging email to the colleague who keeps using your instant coffee or a doodle on the side of your notepad.
So, how come when you set down to write that bestseller, or to draw that masterpiece we’ve been imagining, it can be so hard to get going?
I’m sorry to say that there’s no easy fix.
No magic tablet that, once you swallow it, makes you more of a creative juggernaut. If only that film Limitless was real, ey?
Here are 3 creativity hacks that might just make things a little easier…
Here are a few things that can be done to get the creative juices flowing.
Your mind is a vehicle. If you don’t put the right fuel in, you’re not gonna get the right results out.
And, if you put nothing into it at all…well, you’re not going to get anywhere.
If you want to create, you need to read.
A wide breadth of things. In my current ‘to-read’ list I’ve got everything from a book on spin doctors to an account of Voodoo activity in Haiti. Neither of those are topics I’m looking to pursue – but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t elements there that won’t inspire me.
Let’s say you’re writing a fantasy book.
You’ve read all the classics and some contemporary pieces, and you’re still out of ideas. Why don’t you read about politics?
I mean after all, most fantasy worlds have some sort of government…in fact they’re often run by extreme dictatorships – maybe you could draw inspiration?
“Big ideas come from the unconscious. This is true in art, in science, and in advertising. But your unconscious has to be well informed, or your idea will be irrelevant. Stuff your conscious mind with information, then unhook your rational thought process. You can help this process by going for a long walk, or taking a hot bath, or drinking half a pint of claret. Suddenly, if the telephone line from your unconscious is open, a big idea wells up within you.” – (Ogilvy, David – Ogilvy on Advertising.)
I’ve already covered this tip on another post – but it’s such an important one that I think it belongs in any list.
Often we force ourselves to be creative, and it doesn’t really work.
In my final year at University, I’d schedule days and days to be in the library to work on my final project. But yet, words didn’t come at times – everything around me was distracting. The more I tried to stop myself from being distracted, the more distracted I was.
I wish I’d heard of the 33.3 method then. Basically a mega-productive author and copywriter, Eugene Schwartz, worked out that the maximum time he could be creative for was 33 minutes and 3 seconds. During that time he’d ban himself from leaving the chair, and once the timer went off he go be distracted for ten minutes and then return for another 33.3 spell.
It really works. I know a lot of writers who have employed this, and it’s a good ‘un. I reckon it could work for making music or designing something too.
SIX THINKING HATS
This technique works best if you’re working on a group project, but I reckon you can also do it when working solo – it just requires a bit of role-play. No the Dungeons ‘n’ Dragons type, mind you.
It was originally thought up by Dr. Edward De Bono. It works well once you’ve got the basic concept of what you want to do. If you put on each hat and analyse what it is you’re going to be creating you should have a better idea by the end of it.
More a preparation technique…but I don’t believe that preparation inhibits creativity.
So, there you have it…
Those are just a few things that I’ve found that help me. They’re also good for productivity in general.
If you’re passionate about being creative, you should also be passionate about being productive.
Particularly if you don’t get much time to be creative in your daily life.
“Productivity is being able to do things that you were never able to do before.”
~ Franz Kafka
“By the time I was fourteen the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and went on writing.” – Stephen King
What an interesting way to look at building and architecture.
I accidentally clicked on this TED talk while searching for another, and I’m glad I did.
We’re surrounded all the time by buildings.
I can see six of them outside of the window right about now. I wonder what stories they could tell?
When I was a kid, I couldn’t just read books and comics. I had to try create my own.
A slideshow of creativity was already brimming in my head that I had to find an outlet for.
It hasn’t stopped since and I hope it never does.
If I hadn’t have started creating, I genuinely reckon my head may have exploded.
Or I’d have had migraines, at the very least.
So, I did what anyone tends to do when they don’t have much of a foothold into what they want.
I read a lot of theory.
You’d be surprised how many ‘learn how to write fiction’ books that there are for kids. Millions.
Out of all of them, though, there was a quote from this book that stood out to me:
I’ll paraphrase the quote, as the years have eroded my memory:
“A good writer should be like a magpie”.
Simple, isn’t it?
So, when a magpie builds its nest it takes little pieces of things it likes (normally gold/silver) and puts them there.
Meaning that it has a little treasure chest of good stuff to come back to.
We read things all the time in life. Whether it be from books, newspapers, blogs or those random articles that float across our timelines and newsfeeds.
While some of them are just schlock – some can be inspiring, or at the very least interesting.
You should make a note of these things.
In a notepad if you’re old school, or on Google Keep if you’ve embraced the 21st century.
I do it all the time. Everything from sales copy to film reviews.
While you shouldn’t jack another writer’s words and use it in your work, you can use it to inspire you.
When Picasso first started up his gig as an artist he used to borrow, re-imagine & copy little bits from everyone around him.
It was through doing this that he worked out what he was good at, and what he wasn’t.
This led to him finding his own style and niche in the market. He did alright, didn’t he?
Newspapers are great for magpies. Great stories often start after the writer’s interest has been piqued by an article in their local chip wrapper.
Moral of the story is – have your own moodboard of quotes and things that inspire you and use them as fodder for your own creativity.
I liked this TED talk, so I thought you might want to see it.
The guy’s called Chipp Kidd and he designs book front covers for a living.
How’s about that for a profession?
I wonder how many times he’s heard the old ‘can’t judge a book by its cover’ line?
Anyway, while I mostly talk about writing I like to learn about design too. And, this raises some interesting points about first impressions.
P.S TED stays for technology, entertainment and design. Who knew it?!
At University one of my favourite things to do was to play football.
The big characters, the big moments and the crusty football socks.
It was great.
Most of the time we played on the University astro-turf pitches.
Now you’d think, as students, they might let us use them for free?
Well, that wasn’t the case.
So, every few days we’d have the problem of coughing up enough cash to book it. Which, for penniless students, was a stumbling block.
(back in the day, 2nd in from the left in case you care).
Sure, everyone could scrape a few quid out of their sofas (along with old pizza) on the day – BUT someone had to actually supply the money up front and book it.
No one really wanted to do that. Our group chats on Whatsapp and Facebook would be full of “who wants to book today?” or “whose turn is it now? I did it last week”.
70% of the time no one would jump at the chance. So we’d either have to really coerce one of the richer kids (or rather one of the guys who could manage their student loan), or we just wouldn’t play.
You know what the problem was back then? No one was accountable. It was no one’s specific duty to book, so everyone looked to someone else to step up.
We should have had a rota, or at least a plan…but it was just left up to being ‘somebody else’s job’.
It’s amazing how often I see this with real working adults, particularly those who are working on collaborative projects or trying to create things.
If you don’t assign ownership to someone, or make it their responsibility – there’s a high chance that it won’t get done!
Think of it from a sporting point of view. Imagine going out to play a team game and not giving anyone a position.
Sure, you may adapt after a while…but I don’t think you’d win much.
As much as I’m all for free-flow and creativity – structure is structure for a reason. So, next time you’re working on something make sure everyone knows their roles and responsibilities.
The dead project graveyard is massive, and I wonder how many of those projects died due to a lack of structure?
I’ll leave you with this little saying – the more creative things I get involved with, the more relevant it becomes:
This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was asked to do it. Everybody was sure Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody's job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn't do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.