Dorothy Parker famously said:
“I hate writing. I enjoy having written.”
Don’t we all? We love the end result, the feeling of accomplishment and creative fulfillment. But the hardest thing for most writers is the simple act of getting started. Here’s the usual scenario:
A great idea pops into your head while in the shower. By the time you’re dry enough to turn on the computer, you’ve forgotten what it was. Stare at the blank computer screen. Nothing.
Get up and fix a cup of coffee. Nothing. Check email. Check your Facebook page. Read other people’s Facebook pages. Resist temptation to play Angry Birds. Got to write something. HELP!
Here are five quick tips for getting yourself unstuck (followed by four more tips on how to apply them in the real world) …
- Take notes
- Try freewriting
- Draw a mind map
- Play with your dog
- Give thanks
1. Take notes
Creativity and innovation cannot be planned. Ideas can come out of nowhere, often at the most inopportune times (see shower, above). Be prepared to capture those ideas when they occur, rather than straining to recreate them later.
Keep a notebook and pen or recording device next to the bed, in the kitchen, on your desk. Use Evernote on your computer, tablet, and/or smart phone. This free app collects information from everywhere and compiles neatly into one place for later retrieval by keyword search.
From pictures to web pages to travel itineraries, everything is stored for easy access.
2. Try freewriting
This technique is designed to prime the pump, to get something flowing, even if it makes no sense.
Just write, stream-of-consciousness style, anything that comes into your head. Don’t think about style, grammar, or punctuation. Just keep writing. If an old nursery rhyme or silly song surfaces, write that.
Before long, you will have emptied your brain of the clutter and some ideas that make sense will come to the surface. Voila! You’re writing!
3. Draw a mind map
Most people know what mind-mapping is. The easiest way to describe it is an outline in picture form. The key using mind-mapping effectively is to create your own personal style, not try to follow someone else’s format.
First, do it in color — lots of colors. Get a set of colored pens on your desk and keep plenty of scratch paper handy. Start with keywords and add images if you want. Jot down every topic or idea in no particular order. Later you can go back and number them in an order that makes sense.
Now you have an outline — you’re organized and ready to write.
4. Play with your dog
Or your cat, hamster, goldfish — whatever.
Not writing when you think you should be writing creates stress which effectively shuts off the flow of creativity. This creates even more stress, and the beat goes on.
Go outside and throw the ball for Fido. Watch the hummingbirds in your garden, feel the breeze on your face. (Note: this method does not work in Minnesota in January.) Don’t have a goal or a time limit. Just be.
5. Give thanks
Feeling creatively blocked makes you cranky and anxious, as though the world and all its muses are conspiring against you. Instead of giving in to a “poor me” attitude, write down all things you are grateful for.
Start with the job you have that requires you to write in the first place. Expressing gratitude produces a positive energy flow. As you start to feel happiness in your heart for blessings large and small, you will instantly relax.
When you feel good inside, you are open to creative energy.
Why are these five ideas important?
Because the success of your entire marketing strategy hangs on your ability to apply creativity and innovation in ways that will save you both time and money.
Creativity in writing is an important first step, whether you’re blogging, tweeting, or writing a client proposal.
But, like dropping a pebble into a pond, once you develop the ability to turn on your creative juices, the impact will spread to other parts of your work life and to the people you work with.
Here are four ways to spread that creative wealth throughout your work day, your team, and your entire organization.
- Take risks
Children are the most creative beings on the planet. Take a page from a child’s book and design a work environment where people feel free to get a little crazy.
For example, did you know that you can buy wall coverings and even paint that you can write and draw on? What if people felt free to draw on the walls of your office?
Make your workplace a space where creativity happens naturally.
Get people together for weekly brainstorming meetings.
The first and only rule is that there are no bad ideas. Have a specific topic, whether it’s how to save money on office supplies or how to save a client that’s about to jump ship. Write everything down on a white board (or the wall!). When people feel free to share their ideas, you’ll be surprised what comes out. Once the ideas get rolling, synergy happens. People will play off one another and expand and improve each other’s ideas. Resist the idea that you don’t have time for such things.
Rather than being a time-waster, brainstorming meetings actually save you time — time you can invest in making your business more productive and profitable.
Follow up your brainstorming meetings with innovation teams. These teams can be anywhere from two to four people who take on ideas generated in brainstorming sessions and make them work.
Circle back to the entire team with progress reports, which keeps the creative flow moving and rewards people for taking action. Collaboration can happen either in person or in a virtual environment, using one of the many electronic tools available for online meetings, yet another time and money saver to add to your arsenal.
9. Take risks
In order to succeed, people must have the freedom to fail. If you and your people are afraid to take risks, you’ll plod through your work days without much enthusiasm and excitement.
With nothing to feed your creativity, your marketing goals (and eventually your business) will wither. In order to address serious risk-taking deficiency, one company established a “Golden Turkey Award” (since copied by many others). This award was given to the individual or team with the most spectacular failure. Given publicly, the award encouraged people to learn from failures rather than bemoaning them.
Are you working from a place where risk and potential failure are forbidden? How’s that working out for you?
Over to you …
Applied creativity is the first step toward better organization, better time management, greater business success, and better writing.
These nine tips are a starting point, the first steps toward becoming a more creative and productive writer.