Is creativity innate? Well, maybe to a degree, but a master’s degree in creativity is earned with lots and lots of work. As we’re not poets living on thin air, but professionals who need to deliver, often on very short deadlines, we can’t wait for inspiration.
In this sense, creativity rhymes with study, application, commitment, focus. You need to try, retry, then try again. Do some brainstorming. Then streamline, simplify, trim, keeping only the most valid options and refining them some more.
As all who work in copywriting or, like me, deal with marketing and creative translation, know well, often the big issue is getting ideas out on the page.
But are there a few tricks for those days when even writing the shopping list seems a really hard task?
Well, the answer is yes–luckily for all of us. Let’s see a few examples.
Take your time
The first advice would be to get enough time to do the job properly, keeping in mind the most creative ideas often pop up when you’re not at your desk and are doing something else completely.
Do something else
Personally, when I’m stuck, that’s exactly what I do, even if for just ten minutes. If I give myself a break, even a short one, my mind starts working in the background–like an app!–and often the right idea comes up, sometimes completely unrelated to all the options I had foreseen before.
Take a hike
Going for a walk may be of help. In this case, I find the app JustWrite quite useful, as you can record voice messages and then send them to yourself in a text message.
The link between walking and creativity is not new: according to a study conducted by Stanford University, walking can help increase creativity by up to 60%. Steve Jobs knew that very well, as his well-known walking meetings can testify. But also Henry David Thoreau: “Me thinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.”
A short session of mindfulness is another practice which many creatives find useful, to clear the mind and start afresh.
Others favour doodling or colouring. Or simply aimlessly navigating the web, from click to click (in this case, try and give yourself a strict time limit, for instance 10 minutes, to avoid emerging 2 hours later…).
Drawing mental maps and following the associations coming out of this exercise can also be very helpful.
The idea is to refresh the mind with something not work-related, even just for ten minutes or so. And to start afresh with new vigor and, what matters most, ideas.
I’d say everyone has their own winning formula to spur creativity, especially when you start getting experienced at what you do, better understanding how your mind works under stress and what you can do to relieve it.
But it is fair to say that every formula consists of a bit of talent and a mountain of work, with some smart practices thrown in to promote creativity when you need it.
And above all, when your clients do.
[Post originally published on the Freelancers Union blog]