Have you ever found yourself stuck in a creativity wasteland, facing an empty computer screen with time marching ominously toward deadline? I know I've seen that movie once or twice in my career as a writer and editor. So what are some tricks of the trade to help us get unstuck when the river of great ideas seems to have run dry?
Here's an interesting question: Does routine unlock creativity?
In Lisa Rogak's Haunted Heart: The Life and Times of Stephen King, the world-famous thriller writer said that there are certain things he has to do if he sits down to write. For one, he has to start somewhere between 8:00 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. He needs a glass of water or tea on his desk. He takes a vitamin pill, turns on his music, sits in the same chair, and arranges his papers the same way.
"The cumulative purpose of doing these things the same way every day seems to be a way of saying to the mind, you're going to be dreaming soon,” he says.
The point is that routine unlocks creativity.
Recently, I asked a few Association Media & Publishing members if they had a "creativity routine,” and if so, would they share it with the rest of us?
"I don't really have a pre-creativity routine,” says Kim Howard, editor in chief of ACC Docket for the Association of Corporate Counsel. "However, I do find that some of my best ideas or solutions come when I am in the shower at 4 am or as I am getting ready for work before I leave the house. Naturally, the ‘aha' moment usually hits me when I am in the shower, so I keep a small note pad and pen in a bathroom drawer so I won't forget.”
Tori Miller, director of marketing and communications for the Global Cold Chain Alliance, says she usually revisits some of her favorite websites for a bit of inspiration when she is preparing to design something. Here are her top picks:
"Of course, I always like to look back at any Association Media & Publishing EXCEL Award winners, too, for inspiration and ideas,” says Miller. "If I am brainstorming an upcoming issue of the magazine or a new project, I turn to mind-mapping programs like http://www.mindomo.com/index.htm. I also keep an Oasis Storyboard Pad at my desk to help me visualize the layout and content of each page.”
For Miller, writing or editing is a very different story. "Then, I just plug in my headphones, play some music, and have at it,” she says.
Sean Soth, senior vice president of Network Media Partners, says his pre-creative routine goes a little like this: "Space, I need lots of it.I don't necessarily need to use it all, but having just paper and pen or laptop and desk helps me focus on where I need to go.If the project is something large, like a media kit or event prospectus, I make a little ‘project soundtrack' on my iPod. Whether it's John Lennon or Jay-Z, somebody has to help me through with a few tunes.”
Do you have a creativity routine to share with the Association Media & Publishing community? You never know: Your idea may be the very thing a fellow member stuck in neutral needs to hear to get their engine revving again today.