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 – 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.
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 – 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?