Greetings loyal readers,
A lot of times, in my interviews, suppliers recommend "thinking outside the box." This is good advice, sort of, except that it's sort of like telling someone to "do a good job." Obviously, they should do a good job, but really it would be more helpful to tell them how.
So, as I discussed at the end of my last post, I thought I would share some tips on being creative, which I guess is the same thing as thinking outside the box. You know, sans a descriptive modifier or whatever. The reasoning here being that because I'm a writer, I know a bit about being creative. Hopefully, what I do in my creative process will be just as usable for you all trying to think of unique ideas for products. Here's the list, arranged in no particular order (we're outside the box, remember?):
-The biggest thing I can recommend is that you should try to be thinking about new ideas as much as possible. In the shower, before bed, on the commute to or from work, just basically whenever you get a free minute. The more you train you mind to be thinking of solutions, the more answers just pop into your head at random times. At least that's how it works for me.
In regards to the above, you should always have a pad of paper or some kind of recording device handy, because when random ideas come, you need to be able to write them down. Believe me, if you don't, they'll disappear, and man, then the depression comes hard. There is nothing worse than the feeling of a good idea lost forever. Also, recording stuff helps encourage your brain to keep coming up with ideas, and helps you build off recorded concepts too. Again, I'm basing this off my personal experience.
-Sleep and exercise are wonderful. If you find yourself constantly getting hit with writer's block (or creative block, I guess), take some time to blow off steam at the gym or go for a run. Sometimes it can do wonders to clear your head. Also, getting enough sleep is pretty much the same idea (or the opposite idea, but with the same result?). I notice a huge difference in creative output if I have even an extra hour's sleep.
-I really should mention too, that like sleep and exercise, drugs are also pretty awesome. (I'm talking about caffeine, of course.)
I like to drink tea myself, mostly because I'm a huge wimp and coffee is too bitter for me (seriously, I'm not even kidding). Chrissie, Nikki, Kyle and Matt all like coffee. Charles, in a hardcore move, like Red Bull and chocolate milk. (Again, I'm not even kidding.) He doesn't drink them together, but he does carry them around at the same time, intentionally creating the illusion that he does. It's a move that's half like a tiger baring its fangs (DANGER! STAY AWAY!), and half like an eight-year-old getting ready to have an awesome day (ADORABLE!). I think he does these kinds of things on purpose, just get inside our heads and create fear.
Charlie anecdotes aside, my point is that caffeine makes brains work better. I wish it were otherwise, and I try to keep my creativity as natural as possible, but sometimes you just need that corrective jolt.
I should mention, too, that food and drink in general are important to keep the brain pumping on all cylinders. Your blood sugar naturally dips a few hours after eating, and your brain power usually goes along with it. Nutritionists recommend eating two or three snacks a day anyway, so you might as well keep your brain fueled up. In between breakfast/lunch and lunch/dinner, it can really help things to have a snack. It doesn't have to be anything major, I've been told 90 calories is enough for someone on a 2,000-calorie diet. Obviously, carbohydrate- and protein-heavy snacks are best.
-Some advice that the exceptionally talented Ms. Gruebel has given me, is not to force something if you're not making any progress. It's good advice, because there's definitely been times where I've beaten my head against the wall trying to write a 200 word intro for like five hours. (I call those days "Bad Days.") So, if you're not making any progress solving a particular problem, move on to something else, and come back when you're fresher.
To balance her advice, though, I will say that sometimes it's necessary to muscle through on a project you're just not making progress on. When that happens, my best suggestion would be to stay as relaxed as possible, and keep trying to approach the problem from different angles. I make a lot of pen-and-paper lists when I'm stuck like this, just writing down (stream-of-consciousness-style) anything I can think of. Sometimes it helps me break away from an idea I'm too committed to that's just not working.
-I am a big list advocate and an outline-lover as well, and while I think these organizational structures lend themselves a bit more to writing, I have to say they can be very useful for organizing your thoughts and plans. Sometimes it helps to get things out of your head and map out your plans visually. Think of it like idea-Legos, where you can switch parts around and build whatever you want, except that now it's much harder to choke or build a sweet castle.
-There's some other stuff that I'd like to talk about, like building a good workspace, or how to avoid distractions, but those things are kind of harder to define in 50 words. What I mean is they're very personal aspects of creativity, and I can't really recommend any specific tips. I will say, though, that it helps to be flexible in these areas. Before I came to Promo Marketing, I had to write in total silence. Now, I write with music on pretty much all the time, partly because it helps filter out background noise, it helps me concentrate sometimes.
That's it for Mike's Zany Creative Tips. I hope some of you found it helpful, and weren't all just like, "Man, this isn't news about the CPSC at all, I have grossly mis-clicked."
TEASER FOR NEXT WEEK: I think I'm going to write a little bit about hotels and travel promotions. Larry Wilhelm, president and owner of Custom HBC gave me a ton of material for my March story that I already know isn't going to fit. A lot of the info I think is really smart and a shame to waste, so I'll probably write a nice little supplement and post it here, full of my usual flair and sass that everyone finds just so charming.
CHARLES PLYTER FACT OF THE WEEK: Even though I already gave you all the bit about the Red Bull and chocolate milk, I'll include another fact in case anyone feels cheated by its casual inclusion. Let's see ... um, Charles has a really nice pair of boots that he wears sometimes. They were either an engagement or wedding gift from his wife, I forget which. They're cowboy-ish boots, and have this cool little metal ring on the side, near the outer ankle. They are pretty great boots, I won't lie.