Think back to the last thing you were proud of creating. Like many great projects, it likely started with a blank canvas—or for those of us working in digital mediums, a blank Word document or InDesign page.
When you finally have that finished product in your hands, it can be easy to forget the hard work and focus it took to get there. Once the project is over, you may not remember how you fashioned that eye-catching graphic or pithy mission statement. It’s not until you’re sitting in front of another blank Word document that you rediscover the challenge of getting into a creative flow.
So, what does it take to jumpstart your brain? How do you get from zero words to a first draft? When does an idea become an actualized design? In this post, you’ll get helpful pointers on how to set both your mind and your environment up for creative success—whether you’re working in a cubicle or from your couch. To all the copywriters, graphic designers, and creative thinkers out there—these tips are for you.
Give Yourself Space to Think
For many of us in the industry, we’re used to being busy, sometimes to the point of burnout. Personally, I’ve had to train myself out of bad habits from previous jobs that demanded constant creative output. It wasn’t until I was told to slow down, to sit with my thoughts—to take more time than I felt like I needed—that I began to realize it was uncomfortable for me to work without actually producing copy.
What I’ve discovered since working at U.Group is that the most creative, innovative ideas can come from spending uninterrupted time with your thoughts. Giving yourself—and your brain—the space and time to explore without disruption is a critical part of the creative process.
Carve out time for you and your thoughts. You just might surprise yourself with what you come up with.
Bring in Collaborators
If your creative flow has come to a grinding halt, remember that thinking of ideas doesn’t have to be a solo effort. Sometimes bringing in more minds to help puzzle out a problem leads to unexpected creative output.
At U.Group, I have the pleasure of working with some of the most talented, creative individuals in the industry. By working together in both organized brainstorms and unstructured conversations, we’ve produced creative work like NASA’s Space for U.S., the National Park Foundation’s Find Your Park Quiz, and the Environmental Working Group’s cosmetics regulation video.
Each of these projects required different levels of collaboration and communication between writers, strategists, interactive designers, developers, project managers, and various other team members. If we hadn’t worked together, the final product wouldn’t come close to what we created as a team.
And as many of us begin to work remotely, there are a number of tools at our disposal—including Slack, SharePoint, and Zoom—to help us continue collaborative work and bridge the distance between coworkers.
Find Inspiration in the Unexpected
If you’ve spent over an hour staring at a blank screen to no avail, it’s time to put the work down and walk away. As a creative, you’ve got a world of inspiration at your fingertips. You can interact with works of art, read famous pieces of literature, or lose yourself in the great outdoors—without ever having to leave your current work space.
Maybe you’ll find inspiration watching an interview of Margaret Atwood sharing her top writing tips with two teens. Perhaps it’s lurking on BrandNew in the form of a WW rebrand review. It will likely hit you when Brandi Carlile belts out “But these stories don’t mean anything / When you’ve got no one to tell them to / It’s true, I was made for you” in her song “The Story.”
Inspiration can strike at the most unlikely time. Embrace the unexpected when it does.
Disrupt Your Environment
So, it’s getting toward the end of the day and you still haven’t produced anything you really like. Desperate times call for drastic measures.
Get up. Leave your work area (gasp!). Walk around the block if you can get outside. It might feel weird to take a break, but sometimes the best way to get into a creative headspace is to physically leave your current space behind. If you’re feeling really wild, don’t bring your phone.
Changing your environment helps you reset—physically and mentally. When you come back to your workspace, you’ll do so with a refreshed perspective, a set intention, and a few new ideas that came to you from switching up your scenery.