10 easy ways to instantly energize your creative powers
Whether you’re a freelancer or employee, being a successful copywriter has a lot to do with your creativity. Creative thinking helps you solve problems, overcome obstacles, and find new and better ways to use your skills in a productive and financially rewarding way.
You don’t think you have creative abilities? Nonsense. Everyone is creative to some degree. The only difference between those we call “creative” and everyone else is that creative people use and develop their creative skills. Often this is not a conscious effort, but a natural result of their personality and upbringing.
So it’s not a matter of “becoming” creative. It’s simply a matter of “energizing” the creative powers you already have. To a great extent, this means replacing the bad habits that are holding you back with good habits that make you a more creative and productive thinker. Here are some suggestions:
Learn your craft. You can’t be truly creative in any field until you master the tools of the trade. Robert Irwin, an artist and MacArthur Fellow, spent two years, working up to 15 hours a day, painting the same picture over and over again to understand his work better. You don’t have to go to such an extreme, but you should certainly read the books, attend the seminars, and get as much experience in your field as possible. Talk shop with your colleagues. Surf the Internet. Keep your skill sets sharp and up-to-date. This knowledge will be the fuel for your creative fire.
Get off auto pilot. Don’t allow yourself to settle into a rigid pattern. It’s easy to get comfortable with your tried-and-true formulas. Question your own expertise and the advice of the experts. Stop looking for just one right answer. Don’t settle for the first idea. Set aside the ordinary way of working now and then. Borrow good ideas from others, but try out your own, too.
Loosen up. Sometimes the best ideas don’t immediately square with what you “know” works best. And many good ideas seem outright crazy at first glance. To maximize your creative output, come up with lots of ideas first, then figure out which are best and how to make them work later. Creating and evaluating simultaneously is like driving with your foot on the brake.
Stop avoiding failure. Long ago, while I was still in high school, I took a summer driver’s education class with a friend who was nervous about driving. With a death grip on the wheel, he sat bolt upright, swerved back and forth on the road, slamming the brake at every intersection. He was so fixated on not making a mistake, he couldn’t concentrate on driving. Likewise, if your work process is built around the idea of avoiding failure, you will be unable to concentrate on doing the work. You will certainly not realize your full potential. Instead of avoiding failure, strive for success and accept the occasional failure as part of the learning process.
Focus on important problems. You probably know people who focus so hard on the little stuff, they can’t get anything done — freelance writers who obsesses about the type of notebook paper they use or graphic designers who spend hours fiddling with an almost invisible detail in a Photoshop file. When you focus on trivia, you will generally get trivial results. And this will only discourage future creative thinking. There’s nothing wrong with being a detail person, just don’t lose sight of the big picture. Tackle the big issues first. That’s where the real results come from.
Find new uses for old ideas. Some say that there are no new ideas, just new uses for old ideas. There’s a lot of truth in that. We all collect certain techniques for doing our work. And usually, we’ll use the techniques over and over in the same way. If you do a little photography for your clients, you might use one camera lens for product shots and another for portrait shots. But you could experiment by switching to see what happens. By allowing a little cross pollination of what you know, you can discover great new ways of doing things.
Learn about the creative process. If you’re a salesperson, you learn how to sell. If you’re a boxer, you learn how to throw a punch. If you’re a surgeon, you learn anatomy and surgical techniques. So if you’re in a creative position, shouldn’t you should learn how to create? Read books on creativity and problem-solving. Scan newspapers and magazines for stories on how businesses solve problems in creative ways. Ask people about how they solved problems. Your mind is your most important tool. Learn how to use it.
Keep your head clear. You need information to light your creative fire, but too much will dowse it. Knowing too much is just as dangerous as not knowing enough. Trivial issues take on more importance. Indecision sets in when you have too many alternatives. Gather information at the beginning of every project, but then set it aside before you get hot and heavy into the creative process. A fresh mind produces fresh ideas.
Break down false barriers. When someone asks you for ideas, do you find yourself always saying the same thing? Your ideas may be good, but who says these are the only ideas or the best ideas? Back up. Think things through from the beginning. What are you doing? What is the goal? Why do you do things the way you do? You may find you simply do things out of habit, not for a logical reason. False barriers are barriers you can’t see but that are blinding you to alternate ideas. Ask yourself how you would normally do something. Then look for other ways.
Set the conditions you need to create. For most people, this means comfortable lighting, pleasing sounds and colors, plenty of space to spread out and work, information and equipment handy, and no distractions like endless phone calls or people dropping by. But the right conditions vary from person to person. Beethoven poured ice water over his head. Kant wrote in bed. Balzac drank cup after cup of coffee. Hemingway merely got up at dawn and sharpened 20 pencils. Find what works best for you.
Are you starting to feel more creative? Can you feel those creative juices starting to flow? Good. You’re on your way to becoming a creative mover and shaker.
Here’s a little assignment to help this good feeling continue: Every day do something different. It doesn’t matter what it is. Move your desk to the other side of your office. Wake up an hour earlier. Read a book on welding or candle making or stamp collecting or anything you know nothing about.
Over my desk, I have a little sign that reads, “Do one thing different.” Sometimes, that’s all it takes.
Try these ideas and you’ll find yourself seeing things differently. Thinking different thoughts. Coming up with new ideas. Many a career has been built on a single great idea.
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