Minidisc players and the idea in you

 

A few months ago my cousin was clearing a few of his old things out from his parents’ house.

He came away with a small box of items that had meant a lot to him as a youngster.

Among these trinkets was his old minidisc player.

For a short while in the early noughties, minidiscs were supposed to be the next big thing.
Their popularity soon stifled though, as digital recording and playback became the norm – lost to a generation of people who didn’t want to have physical copies of their music. (Ironically though, with the resurrection of vinyl, this is tilting the other way).

For a short while the minidisc had been his very favourite thing. With an air of nostalgia he turned it on and listened to the disc that was inside – a tune that hadn’t been played for over a decade.

He remarked simply, yet philosophically, on how it was weird that one day he’d just turned it off and never used it again – only for it to turn up some fifteen years later.

How often do you have that with a thought or an idea? All that thinking about something, only to switch off and forget about it.

Ideas aren’t physical things, such as minidisc players. If you lose them it’s much harder to get them back.

As a creative I always used to, annoyingly, have my best ideas when I wasn’t able to write.

The novels, the stories and the concepts that I’d come up with…usually when I was driving or in the gym…right at the time when my laptop was out of reach!

I used to think to myself – ‘I’ll come back to that idea when I get a sec’.

I never did though. Because the enthusiasm for the idea would disappear before I could touch methaphorical pen to metaphorical paper.

So now I carry a notepad with me at all times. So I’m never caught out. I can jot down my ideas whenever and wherever.

I think this is a better option that writing it on my phone. My phone is a bustling hub of distractions…and a big reason of ‘why I didn’t write today’.

I also invested in an expensive notepad. Not because I’m materialistic. But, because I figure that…the more I pay for something, the more naturally valuable it seems and the more likely I’ll be to use it.

Unlike that minidisc player, it’s unlikely that your ideas will come back to you. So have something with you at all times to note them down.

Before you know it, your notebook will become a goldmine of creativity.

I know it seems simple, obvious even, but yet so many people let their ideas slip away.

The writer Robert Louis Stevenson reckoned that ‘Treasure Island’ was born from a couple of dreams that he had.

He also remarked that, had he not have had a pen (or quill back then) by his bed, he’d have forgotten the idea before he could have converted it into a story.

Don’t let your ideas walk the plank…take note of them!

(image credit: wikipedia)

The Purloined Letter: how Edgar Allen Poe can help you with your creativity

We’re pretty advanced these days.

Particularly our thought processes.

The things we worry about are a lot more complex than they were many years ago.

These complex worries can often mean that, when it comes to facing a problem, we instantly look for a complex solution.

Even when the situation doesn’t really call for it.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post – often creativity is a matter of simplicity, not complexity.

In 1845 Edgar Allen Poe wrote a tale called ‘The Purloined Letter’. It was the third in a trilogy of crime short stories about a fictional detective named C. Augustine Dupin.

In the story a letter is stolen from a seemingly secure room and used to blackmail a socialite. The police are desperately trying to find the letter and work out how it was stolen.

They spend their time searching high and low for an elaborate hiding place.

The amateur detective in the story, Dupin, realises that the letter is being hidden openly in the thief’s home and promptly finds it – much to the dismay of the police force. 

It was right in front of their noses. But they were too busy looking for the spectacular.

See? 

The answer to the problem was the simples. But everyone else was overcomplicating things and looking for something spectacular.

In creativity it can often be the same.

If you’re selling a product you can spend months searching for an incredibly clever slogan. But in reality, to sell it all you need to do is tell the customer the obvious.

e.g. – this lightbulb is twice as bright as your current bulb, and energy efficient too.

Simple, on the nose and honest. Telling the customer about two things that they want from a lightbulb.

It can also be the same with a novel. Big, convoluted paragraphs can often be simplified to appeal to the reader.

So, next time you’re tackling a problem or next time you’re being creative, have a think about Poe and ‘The Purloined Letter’. Can he help you?

(Photo credit: the famous people)

 

How kitchen roll taught me that creativity can be simple

Some 20 years ago, my first school was one of many schools that were entered into a competition.

It was run by one of the big kitchen roll companies – I can’t recall which one. 

Basically they wanted us to do a special design for some limited edition packaging.

Yep, instead of using a design firm they decided to skip costs and get eager kids to do it…

Being a creative nipper I was excited by this. But, back then, creativity to me meant that you had to try and be as far outside of the box as possible.

I didn’t think practically or subtly. And so my design looked like it had been put together by Andy Warhol after an acid flashback.

In terms of the client brief and brand it didn’t fit.

And, of course, I didn’t win.

But my best friend did. He had come up with a fairly simplistic (yet polished) design and they lapped it up.

I jealously watched as he won a shedload of plaudits and even nailed a newspaper interview.

Nowadays he channels that skill as a design engineer.

And, after learning a lot, I eventually got a break as a copywriter.

There’s a lesson here for us all. Creativity is about connecting things and sticking true to what your client or your audience will respond to and want.

There’s no such thing as simple. Not really, anyway. It’s just about having a good idea. Whether that idea is plain and conservative, or rainbow coloured – it’s about what fits.

That’s what creativity is. It can be simple. It just needs to fit the purpose.

(Photo credit: Daily Express)

Wanted: Solar-powered clothes dryer

For as long as we humans have walked the Earth, many of us have been honest.

Many of us have wanted to work hard, help others and then reap the rewards for our labour.

However, there are also those of us who look to to scam and deceive everyone around us!

These scam artists often tend to be very creative…I guess not all of us creatives can be good, can we?

Let me take you back the sixties and seventies. The war was well over, the baby boomers were here and people had a quality of life that would have seemed alien to them some years before.

Gadgets were all the rage (as they are now).

Solar-power was one of the buzzwords of the time and everyone wanted to use it whenever they could.

Why not help out the planet as and when you can?

A man called Steve Comisar was out to make some money.

Print advertising was big back then.

So he put an advert in the magazines and papers selling this amazing new gadget:

“Solar-powered clothes dryer – just $39. The planet friendly way to dry your clothes – never use your tumble-dryer again. Send the money and I’ll have one sent out to you within a week, free delivery – life-time guarantee!”

Believe me when I say that people bought into the idea. Families rushed to send over their hard-earned dollars.

And then they waited. Curiously. Sitting there, in their homes, imagining how this new, wacky invention might look.

You can imagine their surprise when it arrived. It looked just like this:

MEN-JJ09-clothesline1

Yep, just your average, run-of-the-mill clothesline. One that you can find in nearly every garden in the country.

As you can imagine people were pissed, and Steve Comisar is still doing time now for that and a combination of other scams.
(I believe that the only U.S. con artist bigger than him was Frank Abingale – he was the guy the film ‘Catch Me If You Can’ was based on.)

Of course I’m not saying that we should go around scamming people, and I’m not advocating a crook.

But – there’s creativity here.

Comisar looked at the current market, saw a theme that everyone was interested in (solar power) and then found a new way to market something around it.

Why don’t we embrace creativity like this and use it to market and sell genuine products?

Or perhaps, if we’re writing fiction – we can take a standard plot, and re-imagine it in such a way that it gets a new lease of life?