3 creativity hacks that will help you.

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.


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

What took you off the sofa today?

The writing that connects with you emotionally is the best. You must have had it before where you’ve read a few sentences, and had to look up from the page and take a moment to reflect on how much you can relate to it.

Not only that but great writing can also change your perspective on so many things, or at the very least give you an insight  into why others’ perspectives differ from yours.

Sorry if I’m stating the obvious, but sometimes in life I feel we need to be ‘Captain Obvious’ occasionally and remind ourselves of the things that we take for granted.

But where do you get the ammo? I mean sure, some of us are born with a natural affinity for words – some people can construct a sentence with enough flare and gusto to match a West End show. But, without having the right topic to talk about – flowery writing is just flowery writing. Almost like a piece of average art – hung up in a corner of your house that you never really look at, pleasing to the eye but otherwise useless.

To me, it comes from experience – I love reading stories about faraway lands and cities I’ve never seen. But the ones that get to me the most, with the devil in their detail, are those that are written by people who have actually gotten out of their sofas and been there.

So this is one of the things I’m going to do to make sure that I write more, and better. I’m going to push my boundaries, get out of my sofa more and take in more of what life has to offer.

As we all know very well, it’s so easy to get involved in solving life’s day-to-day problems that you can sometimes lose sight of the great stuff happening around you.

A dinner party for strangers…

You’ve been asked to help your friend host a dinner party. You’re a decent cook and you know your way around a wine-food pairing scale, so you should have no problems.

The catch is…you don’t know any of the guests – they’re all your friend’s friends. Of course that’ll create a few general social hurdles for you to scale when the night comes, such as initiating conversation with strangers (!!) – but, the main obstacle is having to cook and prepare a night of entertainment for some people you know nothing about.

So what do you do? I mean, yeah you can create an all-rounder menu that you hope everyone will like – but then, particularly in this day & age, diets are so widespread that you could majorly miss the mark. And hell hath no embarrassment as embarrassingly embarrassing as mild social embarrassment, right?

Imagine the social ramifications – a collection of eyeballs bulging out as you dare to serve brie to a vegan! Or, on a somewhat darker note, the chance that the cake you prepared might trigger off a nut allergy – meaning a change of location from your living room to A & E.

And, believe me, the options in A & E vending machines aren’t gourmet. Even if you put a cocktail stick through them.

How would you resolve this predicament? It’s simple really. You’d investigate. You’d ask your friend and perhaps use social media to check their friends’ Instagrams – as, let’s face it, if a meal is munched without being uploaded to Instagram, was it even consumed at all?

But the point I’m driving at is that you’d research. You’d get an idea of who you were cooking for, and you’d make up your night accordingly. Creating a menu to accommodate everyone – a peppering of personal flair here and there.

My question is – why wouldn’t you do that for your writing?

Whether it be a blog post, a sales letter, social content, a novel, etc – you need to have an idea of who you’re writing for and what they’d like.

Next time you sit down to write something, take a little time to do some research about the kind of person you’ll be writing for.

Those reading a ‘young adult’ novel aren’t going to want to read a breakaway chapter about Thatcher’s Britain, while senior citizens aren’t going to respond very well to a meme about how annoying it is when your mum disturbs your FIFA game by calling you to dinner.

Personalisation is the key to connecting with your audience, and if you’re not interested in finding out about them you’ll struggle to engage them.

Minimalism and the never-ending ‘how are you?’

So, you’ve got a day to yourself and you’ve got a little bit of money in your back pocket. You decide to go shopping and pick up some new clothes, because let’s face it – even the best stocked wardrobe needs to be freshened up every now and then.

You walk into one of those kind of sleek clothes shops that have more mannequins than clothing lines – you know the type I mean, right? The sort of uber-white, brightly lit joint that’s so minimally minimalist you almost think you’ve accidentally walked into an empty lot.

As you enter a sales assistant walks past you – stopping briefly to assess you. They work out your social stature, your waist size and whether or not you fit in with their pre-programmed ideals of what looks best for the brand.

“Hi, how are you?” they sing out cheerfully, a couple of coat-hangers strung over each shoulder – the attached garments billowing out in their wake like a cape. A superhero for the well dressed minimalist capitalist consumer.

So, what do you say? I mean you’re not going to open up your deepest, darkest fears to a stranger are you? Well, you might. But most likely you’ll just say “I’m good” and then go about your day…staying perhaps a couple more minutes before you decide that a white t-shirt with a full stop in the middle isn’t going to make you look as cool as the person you want to be.

But do you know what I always say?

I always say, “I’m good thank you, how are you?”

And do you know what they say? Nothing. They’ve already walked past and gone back to their day – forever leaving me hanging.

Not just clothing shops, but all sorts of stores, restaurants and even bars. I’m always left wondering how they are and how their day is going.

Why do I ask? Why do I care?

Because I feel that, as a writer, I need to be in tune with other people…I need to be interested in other people.

Because that’s where the true stories lie – the beauty of observation is that it’s so easy! There are great characters all around us, with great perspectives and feelings – but if we don’t take any notice of them, we’re losing free research. A free chance to craft and calculate new characters.

It’s a well-known fact that many authors base characters on people they’ve known – because the best characters tend to originally be born of flesh and blood – not from the factories of the creative mind. Or, at least not fully.

So, open your eyes/ears and ask someone how they are.

Centre Circles & Corner Kicks

I didn’t write this evening because I watched the football.

Creatives aren’t just the artists and the writers of this fair lonely planet. They can be in all walks of life from engineers to footballers.

Ever since the days of gladiators and colloseums sport has always united and divided us.

Long may it continue. 

I’ll write tomorrow. Tomorrow is the day where I’ll begin walking down the path to becoming the greatest writer who ever lived..

The Top Shelf of the Library

I didn’t write today, because I couldn’t find the right story to start on.

I always feel that the fictional storyteller’s mind is a library of ideas and plots, many of these are easy to access and get a hold of. But, usually the ideas that you really want to pursue and start to write about are the hardest ones to find.

By that I mean, to again use the library analogy, they’ll often be on the top shelf. You can see them from a distance, and can make out a bit about them, but you need to get closer to them.  So, you’ll spend ages looking around for a ladder or maybe you’ll clumsily try and climb up the shelves until you reach the top.

Then, after using all that time to try and get a proper hold of the idea, you’ll be so distracted that all the time that you’d made to write will have floated away.

I’ve always been an ideas guy. Even as a kid I’d be more interested in sketching out my own comics and stories than I would reading them. I guess there are two types of people – those who walk out of a cinema and think; “man, that was a great film!” – and those who walk out of a cinema and think; “that was an awesome film, but I reckon I could do better”.

Creative consumers and creative do-ers.

I’ve always been the latter.

I can’t remember the last time a day went by where I didn’t have a story in the back of mind that I wanted to tell. Whether it be simple, or more complex. Sadly, without a computer (or at the very least) a notepad permanently taped to my hands the creative flow can’t always be tapped at the best time. Life has a habit of getting in the way, doesn’t it?

I wonder how often, in the whole history of the world and everything ever, truly great masterpieces have fallen to the wayside because the potential authors just weren’t able to organise their mental libraries in time to grab the bull by its horns and get some words down on some paper.

Motivation for an idea can be lost so quickly.

Why do they always come to you when you’re just about to drift into the land of nod, or when you’re out and miles away from your desk?
But, here’s a Sunday night vow…I will be better, and I’ll avoid excuses and organise my gems when necessary.

Because becoming the greatest writer who ever did live isn’t going to come about without a blood, sweat & tears.

New York Times Bestsellers List here I come…

Weekend or writing week beginning?

If you’re lucky enough to have your weekends free you should make some time to write.

It’s easy to lose your days off in a whirlwind of chores and life admin tasks.

But in 30 years from now, would you rather look back and think that was the weekend that I started my path to become the greatest writer who ever lived or that was the weekend I mowed the lawn?

Who knows you just might make it onto The New York Times Bestsellers list…