Seeing the big picture – the creativity hack you often overlook…

Growing up, I lived in the countryside – which meant I was used to country roads and the pace that life moved at.

So, when I started driving, I was a little nervous about motorways and dual carriageways.

“Why?” asked my driving instructor, “if anything it’s easier. The more you can see of the road ahead, the more you can be ready for”.

And he’s right.

It’s like that with creativity.

The more you can see of the big picture, the easier it is to plan.

But I go one step further than this, I take it literally.

So I bought an A3 drawing pad. A nice big space for me to draft out and plan what I do.

It works.

Too often I see people writing on their phones.

Sure that’s okay for a Tinder message or a Whatsapp. But if you’re crafting sentences, writing paragraphs it’s better to see the whole page.

The bigger picture. It’s good.


I’ve never been one for art.

In fact, I could probably count the amount of art galleries I’ve visited on one hand.

Am I uncultured? Probably.

Am I a heathen? Possibly.

I feel that, as a creative, I should probably rectify this – I’ve always had an eye for design, but have never let it flourish – preferring to spend my creative time around words.

So, as I’ve completely changed my surroundings recently, I’ve decided to surround my new room with some art.

Not too much.

But just enough.

A couple of images that will make me think. Because, that’s what good art should do.

The first one is Picasso’s ‘3 musicians’ (which you can see above) – and not just because it was cheap in a Cyber Monday sale…


Just because the things I create centre around paragraphs, full stops and hyphens – it doesn’t mean I can’t be inspired by something else.

Perhaps I should visit a few art galleries when I have some free time. I can see a new series of blog posts beginning – ‘Understanding Art: An Idiot’s Guide’.

Watch this space.

(image credit: wikipedia)

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)

Judging books by their covers?

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?!

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.

Do you only blow out candles on your birthday?

I often wonder if it was easier to write many, many years ago. Just imagine it, the clock strikes the seventeenth hour of the day and as the sky around you slowly begins to fade into twilight you down tools and you make your way home. Depending on the era the occasional flickering streetlight might be there to guide you back and then once you’re there, asides from eating, I suppose there must have been little other distractions.

Making the assumption that, at the time, you were educated enough to be able to write to a decent standard – you take a seat at your desk (in front of a roaring fire or candle), fill your pipe with tobacco and what else would you have time for but to write?

I always attach a certain kind of charm to writing by candlelight, I firmly believe in the Danish art of Hygge and I think a simple candle flame really can conjure up the right environment for you to centre yourself and collect your thoughts. So, what could be more perfect than having to use a candle to write with as a necessity rather than just an extra touch?

Of course, I’m being idyllic – I’m sure it would be rather annoying that your only source of illumination could be scuppered at the mere rustle of the wind. Plus, no matter which era you found yourself in times could likely be hard/busy and I’m sure the time to write probably wouldn’t come so easily. Still, it’s a nice thought isn’t it?

I mentioned Hygge earlier – here’s a definition just in case it prickled your curiosity:
Hygge (pronounced hue-guh not hoo-gah) is a Danish word used when acknowledging a feeling or moment, whether alone or with friends, at home or out, ordinary or extraordinary as cosy, charming or special.  (

(Look at me using the lazy blogger art of copying definitions)

While in my ‘Sandwiched’ article, I mentioned that you shouldn’t spend too much of your time trying to find the perfect setting and moment to write, it doesn’t mean that you can’t make the odd tweak to your surroundings and your mood.

Start by embracing a bit of ‘Hygge’ and buying yourself a few candles – I was in Copenhagen not so long ago and the Danes absolutely love them. With good reason too. They create the perfect kind of cosy vibe that I find helps me to write – my mind rang with creativity throughout the whole trip.

Whether you write at a desk, or in bed – go out and get yourself some candles. Have them burning away while you write and see if it helps you find some focus – I wonder how many words you could write in the time it takes a standard candle to burn down to its wick?

If you’re interested in finding out some more about Hygge, check out this book – my girlfriend swears by it, and so do many others: Hygge