Creativity Alone is Not Enough!

Creativity Alone is not Enough!

You'll need more than a lightbulb moment to make creativity count.

There’s more to being creative than creativity. When I was told that this month’s Word Carnival topic was going to be creativity I rejoiced. After all, who would know better than a writer or other creative professional about this stuff that fuels our lives and businesses?

I think there are lots of aspects to creativity but there are two that I want to focus on in particular.

Idea Generation for Writers

The first is the creative muse โ€“ coming up with ideas. This is one area that I personally have no problem with. (Watch out, tenuous link with favorite movie Love Actually coming up.) Like Christmas, ideas are all around. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. ๐Ÿ™‚

Just in case you have trouble coming up with ideas, here’s my list of the places and ways in which they occur to me.

  • I get ideas were sitting at my desk writing about something for a client. It’s amazing how when you’re writing about one topic ideas on another will spring into mind trying to distract you.
  • I get ideas when I talk to other people, just in conversation about random things.
  • I get ideas from social media when I see what people share and discuss on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.
  • I get ideas from my daughter who has just turned nine, is also a writer (not yet published but watch this space) and like many children has a unique perspective on the issues that adults worry about.
  • I get ideas from everything I read. And I don’t just mean reading about writing, but crime fiction, biographies and more.
  • On the rare occasions when I don’t have an idea a change of scene will often produce one.

Capturing Inspiration and Creativity

OK, so if ideas aren’t the problem, sometimes the issue is capturing them. As writers we probably walk around with a notebook or recording device (heck, your phone probably has one), so there’s no excuse for losing track of an idea. Then you need to write them down (though, as you will see, that doesn’t always lead to anything measurable). Some people use tools like Evernote or Springpad to do this online. It doesn’t matter how you do it, just that you do it.

Obstacles to Creativity

However as I said before there is another component to creativity โ€“ and that’s actually getting off your backside and doing something with the ideas you have – making a product. What good is it to be creative unless you actually create?

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you will know that I have no problem being creative on behalf of my clients. That’s what they pay me for. Often their work comes first. No matter how many times I try to achieve a balance at some point I end up letting my stuff take a backseat to client priorities. What does that mean in practical terms? It means that all the creativity that is bubbling in my brain (I mean seriously, I have at least three ideas files and a couple of online notebooks full of stuff that I know will be great if I could ever get around to doing it) is wasted.

From Writing Ideas to Action

So how do you get from creative ideas to creative action? That’s something that I’ve been working on over the last year or so. And so far my answer is: one step at a time.

Having too many ideas that you want to accomplish can be just as paralysing as none at all. The trick is to pick the idea that resonates most with you, plan it out and do it. Then pick the next best one and do that – one step at a time.

Your idea could be something small, like creating a video (check), something larger like writing an e-book (check) or something even larger like creating a course (still working on that one). I’ve found that if you want to get something done and move that creativity out of your brain and turn it into something useful, you have to plan it.

You don’t have to get fancy with the planning. Some people like whiteboards and paper. Others like mindmapping. I like an online list tool called Workflowy which is great for outlining, storing information snippets and general planning. It has drag and drop too, which is useful for when things change.

When you plan, you have a list of steps you can check off, but some people need even more. They need accountability. This is where it’s time to phone a friend, set some milestones and check in periodically. This will help you to actually accomplish something. Or you can crack your own whip and set reminders in your calendar to email you with a list of what you have to accomplish for your project that day. Or you can join a mastermind group and commit to achieving certain goals every time you meet.

Creativity – A Summary

To be creative and make something of your creativity, you need to:

  • have ideas
  • capture them
  • avoid the obstacles
  • pick a project
  • plan it
  • carry out your plan, one step at a time
  • rinse and repeat

How do you harness creativity? What gets in the way for you?

(Image:ย olga.belobaba)

About Sharon Hurley Hall

Sharon Hurley Hall has been mentoring writers here at Get Paid To Write Online since 2005 to help them improve and build sustainable and successful writing careers. Check me out on Feel free to connect with me online on Google+.


  1. So true, It’s creativity that makes you different from your competitors who’re writing on same topics. But before showing your creativity you must have an idea to work on and have proper plan to follow up.

  2. I think it’s unique idea that makes the difference, If you have unique idea to write on then you can use your creativity to make it more attractive and interesting.

  3. Tea Silvestre says:

    LOVE that you point out the need to act. Ideas are definitely a problem if you follow them all at once. Focused energy on one idea is what moves us forward. I see more small biz owners failing because they want to follow every bright shiny object that floats into their head. Watch out!

  4. Hi Sharon, I love your tips and I really need to make them part of my routine. I have so many ideas that many times it’s hard to focus on one at a time. You’re great with time management and I really need to work on it. Thanks for the encouragement!

  5. Reading this and a few other Creativity posts has shown me that writers are just that bit different to the rest of us – you are primed and constantly alert for ideas. You have a multitude of ideas storage devices and then you act on the prompts and focus on what you want to achieve. Your seven step programme is simple, effective and easy to follow.

    • I guess we write because we have all these ideas, Julia. I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t even have to be looking for ideas for them to surface. I even have the discipline to see them through (for clients). I just need to be more disciplined about working on ideas for me. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Awesome post Sharon,

    I also get more ideas as I’m writing. It can get really annoying because it’s like a little voice in the back of your head that won’t stop nagging you. That’s why I always have a notepad open so I can just jot down the idea and move on.

    So will we be seeing an appearance from your daughter on this blog? Now that would be creative!

    • I take notes everywhere, Eugene – on my phone using the built in notepad, on the notepad on my desk … I even keep a pen and paper in my bedside cabinet just in case.

      Re my daughter, that’s a great idea – I’m sure she’d love to make a guest appearance. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. “What good is it to be creative unless you actually create?”

    ^THIS. A few thousand times. Thanks for the reminder it’s just as important to remove the *blocks* to creativity as it is to *be* creative.

  8. What an absolutely fabulous description of transitioning the creative into action. Love it, Sharon. This is a great kick in the rear for those times where you feel overwhelmed or you fall off course. Thanks, Sharon.

  9. Sharon, as always, you bring the best goodies to the picnic. I was sampling that tidbit about the paralyzing effect of too many ideas and said to myself, “By George, that is so true!”

    I have had that problem. Sometimes, though, you can’t go after the one you really want until you tackle something else, first. Tim Ferriss refers to that “something else” as your “muse” – a bit different usage than yours!! But, to borrow his concept of a liberating cash cow that enables you to focus on what you really want, I would say that we may have to prioritize our ideas.

    In my case, I really, really want to get my board game software updated. However, the lack of a “software muse” was in the way. It turns out that I needed to build a framework for ALL of my software, first. So, I had no choice but to put aside my big idea for awhile. In general terms, folks in the grips of multi-idea paralysis might try this technique:

    As you said, look at the idea that most resonates with you. If the path is clear, go forward. Otherwise, ask yourself honestly, “What do I have to do before I can really go after this idea?” You may discover that another big idea or two would actually help you clear the path to your favorite idea. In fact, this is bound to be the case, for the simple reason that most big ideas are also big-picture, view from 30,000 feet ideas. We creatives do not start out thinking about what font we are going to write in. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I don’t know that this technique will work if your ideas don’t have any overlap. Personally, I have found that ideas come in clusters. Just as you said, they can be distracting, but they’re proof that we do tend to have overlapping ideas.

    Final thoughts: I have been very dissatisfied if I don’t at least visit my favorite ideas from time to time. It’s kind of like that picture of your dream house, stuck to the fridge as a constant reminder. If someone were to put that picture away … grrr!
    So, even if you have to work on something else, keep those dreams alive!



    • Great insights, Mitch, thanks. It’s so true that there are things that get in the way of realizing our ideas, but I guess the key is, even if we have to work on a secondary idea first, to actually DO it! Love the idea of a sort of mental vision board for ideas – that’s what all these ideas files and notebooks are. Occasionally, I go back to these and realize that I’m just not feeling a particular idea any more. Then it’s time to think about what would make it resonate with me again and bam – there’s another cluster of ideas. Thanks, as always, for sharing your thoughts.

  10. evan austin says:

    Love it, Sharon! GREAT reminder to CAPTURE ideas for later…i’ve observed people older than i realizing great projects ten years and more after first conceiving of them, and i always thought that was a maddeningly long time frame, but i’m seeing as i get older that it really does happen that way sometimes. i also love your suggestion of consulting and listening to children.

    • Thanks, Evan. I love the way talking to kids can bring about a shift in perspective. Often, even our creativity can run down well trammeled paths. Getting a fresh perspective from a young brain can shift you in exciting new directions.

  11. What good is it to be creative unless you actually create? — I love that quote.

    So many domains purchased… so few sites to show for it. It’s time for a little B.I.G.! BUTT IN GEAR!

    Thanks Sharon!

    • I think all creative types have their fair share of ideas they don’t do anything with, NIck, but like you I need to get my butt in gear and achieve some of those bigger projects.

      • Accountability is the biggest foil to creativity.

        It’s great to grind on creative thoughts all day but you just have to hold yourself (and your friends) accountable. The best way I’ve found to do this is to find an accountabilibuddy.

        • “Accountabilibuddy” – I love that term, Nick. That really works; somehow you’re less likely to push things to the back burner when you have to check in. You’d think we’d all just get on with our stuff anyway, but we often don’t unless there’s someone at the end of the phone or email.

  12. I love your list of suggestions for being creative. I too have notes and lists and ideas in the back that get pushed aside to put many of them in action for clients. I suppose that is what we do and we probably need to hire people like ourselves so we can work more on our own stuff huh! When I hit those moments of nothings coming getting out does help..Hopefully I can get out soon so I can create a few more things. Nice post fellow Carnie!

    • Thanks, Michelle. I guess this is where outsourcing the tasks that you don’t need to do yourself comes in. The only trouble is, sometimes we just can’t bear to let go. ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Sharon I think we have the same never shuts up creative gene. I know that finance geeks are supposed to be boring, and shun anything remotely innovative. Not me! I’ve got more ideas laying around (err somewhere) than Santa has presents to deliver.

    While I love Nick’s word Accountabilibuddy, I have found the only way to get big personal projects done is to become publicly accountable. Telling my colleagues, tweeting about it, and even offer teaser promotional notes. It can create stress, but it also has got my butt in gear to offer (twice in 2012) an 8 week ecourse as well writing a book.

    • Public accountability also works, Nicole. I sometimes tell my newsletter subscribers what I’m going to do. That only works for small things, though. If I make a promise on Twitter, you’d better believe I’ll follow through because I don’t want hundreds or thousands of people waiting around for me to deliver. ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. You make a great point about imagination. Thanks you for providing your input, it is greatly appreciated.
    Thanks Again…

  15. Thank you for your seven steps to creating from creativity, Sharon. They should be our daily mantra to actually acting, doing, making sure that the creative idea doesn’t die from lack of nourishment and nurture, both of which are acts of doing.

    You are so right it is in the act of doing that we realise our creativity. A painter would not be an artist without picking up the brush and attacking that blank canvas. In terms of small business, if the painter wanted to continue their creativity, they would also need to sell their canvasses!

    • Exactly, Sandy! I was watching a program on Steve Jobs recently and he had the idea for the iPad 30 years before he realized it. As Mitch suggested, he had to bring some of his other ideas to fruition to create the climate for the iPad. The point, though, is that he was innovating throughout those 30 years.

  16. Another excellent post from Sharon. The Internet is a great source of creative ideas, but it can also be an obstacle to implementing them. I see and read about so many fascinating things daily, it probably does reduce my productivity. I guess there are no easy answers, except to try to focus on one project at a time, and accept that you are never going to be able to keep up with everything!

  17. Great advice, especially the thoughts on from creative ideas to creative action and how to avoid getting stuck with so many great ideas that none of them get done.

  18. Hi Sharon,
    I’m also an idea person like you are. I think we are attracted by ideas and new things… but then when it’s time to implement.. well the truth is that it often gets a bit boring and it’s hard to keep the motivation and inspiration going. We really need to work on keeping that internal energy going to finish projects.
    I have to say this article was excellent, whick is why I plus one’d it, facebook liked it and tweeted it.
    All the best,

    • Thanks, Eren. Sometimes if you can produce something while the creative spark is still live, great things can happen, but there are ideas that you can get bored with. In my case, that’s usually because I’ve left it too long and the impetus is gone.

  19. Katie Woodard says:

    My problem is capturing my ideas. I have a great story of heartbreak in my head but I just don’t know how to convey it into words if that makes sense. Thanks for this article though. Maybe if I come up with a plan I can do it.

  20. Sometimes if you can produce something while the creative spark is still live, great things can happen, but there are ideas that you can get bored with.
    I guess there are no easy answers, except to try to focus on one project at a time, and accept that you are never going to be able to keep up with everything!

  21. If you want to be more creative, it’s important to stay healthy. Give your brain the proper resources to maximize its potential. Eat and sleep well, and go jogging often to oxygenate your brain, which allows you to think faster.