In a world where everyone wants a quick hack, is there actually a quick hack for creativity?

It was Steve Jobs who said it.

You’ve probably seen it plastered over the internet many times.

But, no matter how often it’s shared – it doesn’t make it any less real.

Here it is, just to refresh your memory:

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while”.

And, it’s true. That’s what creativity is.

Whether it’s taking a turn of phrase and fitting it to a product you want to sell, or matching half a sentence to another half a sentence to get your point across – it’s all about connecting things.

It comes easy to some of us and not so easy to others.

There’s no quick antidote for writer’s block (not even a bottle of wine) and there’s no super easy way to force creativity while in a dry patch.

And, in this world where we all want quick hacks, this is a quote worth remembering.

Sure, it’s cool to look at creativity as some kind of magical world of clouds, pixies and dragons where only a few great minds dare tread…

… but, perhaps the easiest way to solve a creative problem is to simply work out what the two things are that you need to connect and then start finding things that connect them together.

You make just strike it lucky somewhere in the middle.

What do you reckon?

Ashley Brown 2018

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)

Beware! The Termites of Productivity!

Beware! The termites of productivity!

Sometimes they pop up when you least expect them, other times you can see them coming from a mile off – yet, no matter how hard you try to fight them, they can end up getting the better of you.

Usually it happens when you’re working remotely or freelancing, but it can happen when you’re in the office too.

By termites, I mean those little problems that pop up and plague you to the point that they break into your productivity or, even worse, your creativity.

Earlier today I’d just set sails into a sea of creativity when I fell victim to a termite of productivity.

In the shape of this USB mouse:

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The track pad on my laptop has seen better days (along with the laptop itself) and, to try and delay buying a new one as much as possible, I decided to invest in a USB mouse.

I connected it and all was running smoothly for about thirty seconds.

Then it, quite randomly, decided to disconnect itself.

Was it the batteries? No.
Was it a potential hacker? No.
Was the mouse faulty? Unknown.
Was it conspiracy? *puts tinfoil hat on*
Did plugging it in and out again work? Yes.

But…the problem persisted.

Every few minutes it would decide to disconnected itself, so I’d have to stop my flow and reconnect it.

Doesn’t sound too bad…yet, when you’re working to deadlines, those minutes add up and, because you’re so intent on fixing the problem, you can lose track of just how much time you’ve lost.

Thus, the termites of productivity – little problems that slowly creep up and take away your time.

I’m sure you all know what I mean.

Don’t let them ole termites break you.

Keep your focus and keep the end goal in mind.

…now, let me email the company I bought it from…(oh wait, that’ll eat up even more of my time)

Do you know what the scariest thing about writing is?

…it’s not the fact that only a small % of us will ever actually make it as professional writers.

…it’s not even the fact that the Twilight series was published.

Nope.

The scariest thing about writing is that every sentence that you write for an audience is a battle in its own right.

Because every sentence that you write is fighting for your audience’s attention, to get them to read the next one.

As you well know, we live in a time of constant distraction. The humble writer has to compete with Tinder alerts, PPI sales calls and Call of Duty deathmatches.

Never has the written word faced such a challenge. How many people do you know who genuinely find it easy to read long articles, or finish books these days?

This is especially applicable if you’re writing content for marketing. In ‘feeds’ full of other shareable content every word you write is a warrior of its own, fighting to slay the other posts around it so it can reel the ‘scroller’ in.

If you’re writing a book or a story, I guess you have a little more leeway – as your readership will have (most likely!) paid for what you’ve done.

And, when you’ve paid money for something, you want to give it the chance to prove that it was worth your money. I mean, no one wants to look like they make bad financial decisions do they?

Heaven forbid.

But, even then, too many pedestrian sentences and too little flair will soon turn your fans away.

So, there’s the thought for today. Every sentence that you write should promote the fact that it’s worth the reader’s while to read on.

You’re only as good as your last sentence.

100 ways to win an argument with yourself…

How many times a week do you argue with yourself?

By that I don’t mean to ask how often you sit in the corner of the pub and talk about politics to yourself. And, come on – who needs to spend time doing that when the internet has a pulsing community full of people waiting to argue over opinions and theories?

What I mean is…how often have tried to convince yourself to do something? To exercise, to get up earlier…or to write?

How often have you sat in front of your computer – ready to unleash your creative genius onto an empty Word document? Only to find that your games console was more appealing, or perhaps the lure of daytime TV was too much?

Is a day to yourself even a day to yourself without catching the Frasier double bill before ‘enjoying’ an episode of Jeremy Kyle?

As with many blogs today this one is, again, about motivation and how you need to fight that inner voice of distraction. After all the people you see as successful, they didn’t get there through not being bothered.

You know what quote I really like?

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”
– Laozi, Chinese philosopher (circa 600 BCE)

You’ve probably seen this on hundreds of t-shirts, mugs and posters. Quite rightly too. It is motivational and it is inspiring.

But what Laozi was really saying, to me, is that most people can’t be bothered, most people are inactive when it comes to following their dreams. So, the brave soul who makes that first metaphorical step may well be the one who gets to where they want to be.

I use this quote not to inspire me, but to remind me that there are loads of people around me who can’t be bothered.

For as long as they stay that way, there’s less competition for me.

Next time you have that argument with yourself, where the voice of laziness or procrastination tries to steer you away from your goals – think about our friend Laozi.

Not just his quote which has been demeaned by cheap coffee cups – but the fact that so many others won’t make that step…meaning that you’ll already be standing out if you do.

Will you remember the day you lost yourself to daytime TV or the day you kept your focus and started the ‘thing’ that cemented your dreams for you?