Our guest writer Laura Olson pens words for some of the biggest brands on the planet. And yet, she’s not immune to the emotional roller coaster ride that is the creative process. Find out how she navigates its twists and turns, and walk away with a better understanding of how great copy — and great ideas in general — come alive.
It seemed so simple at first. When asked to write a piece about the nature of creativity, how the process works, and how to use it to really sell your business, I said sure thing. That should be easy right? I know what I do. I’ll write about it.
I told a few people I had a new assignment. Toasted to the world of copywriting.
Then I realized I actually had to create the piece. And I chewed off all my nails. Walked around the block. Thought up lots of stupid ways to open the article, then realized they were stupid. Procrastinated a while. And finally sat down to share this foolishness with you.
You see, for me the creative process is not straightforward or organized. It’s not linear or predictable. It’s messy, sometimes painful, often indirect, but ultimately rewarding.
It’s like birth. I think.
Usually with a little less blood. (Though probably some, remember the nail biting). It goes like this:
Rant to a friend,
Throw it out,
Try to do yoga,
Get inspired on my mat and run off to make notes,
But then mess up my yoga and end up crazypants for the day,
Or DON’T make notes,
Then forget what I was thinking about.
Potentially have a meltdown.
Stream reruns of some ridiculous old TV show like some sort of unholy white noise to calm the mental chatter and start over again.
I finally get on a roll and really CREATE.
By that point, I usually find myself writing furiously before I can forget what I’m thinking, while rabidly eating my way to the bottom of a family sized bag of corn chips. Yeah that’s healthy, and totally yogic.
It’s the same for a passion project, like recipe creation or yoga writing, as it is for content creation for a client or naming beauty products.
The difference with a passion project, though, is that the only deadline is in my head. If I have a deadline to meet for a client, I have to meet it! But creativity doesn’t necessarily appear on demand.
So what to do? Is there any hope?
Yes, there’s always hope. And here are a few tactics.
1. Set the scene.
Make your environment conducive to being focused and creative. As in don’t let the office (or your home or wherever you work) be so messy as to be distracting. Use white noise or make sure you have silence, whatever works best for you. Make sure you have a comfy work space. For me it’s the floor with a zafu and my laptop on a coffee table, but for you it might be a supportive desk chair. Know yourself. And definitely don’t keep corn chips on hand. Too dangerous.
2. Let the idea live in the back of your brain.
If you have enough time, just put the concept in the hopper and let it live there a while. Don’t look at it directly, it could get scared off. Just speak nicely to yourself and let the kernel of a concept marinate on its own.
3. Get the blood flowing in the right direction.
I joke about ideas coming to me during my yoga practice, but it’s really true. Exercise gets the actual blood flowing and can also shift your energy, clear your mind, and give you some endorphins, all of which help with creativity.
4. If an idea comes to you, jump on it.
Don’t wait until your next regularly scheduled work session or until your partner is done telling you about their day (sorry babe!) or until the whole concept has gelled. Begin working right away and fan that little spark into a flame.
5. Don’t throw anything away.
Put every single little idea into print and save it just in case. You never know when you’ll use it, for this project or the next one. You can put your outcast ideas into a separate document so they don’t confuse you when you start over, but just keep them in reserve, in case they fit somewhere.
Also, so often you won’t be the best judge of your work.
Send all the ideas, hopefully organized into top choices and secondary options, and let the client be the judge. If you’re working for yourself, ask an opinion or two (but not too many…) just to check your gut instinct.
6. Step away.
That’s right, take breaks. Even on deadline, even while trying to fan that spark into a bonfire, you’ll need to step away from time to time and get a little distance from your work. Walk around the block. Make sure you have healthy food and water, stretch your legs, then look at it again. Sleep on it, then edit again in the morning. There’s a lot to be said for a fresh eye.
Finally, remember you’re not alone. While trying to figure out how to write this piece, I talked to a few friends, embarrassed about how messy my process is. I shamefacedly admitted I didn’t think I was a “real” creative because it often feels hard. And they all said “OMG yeah, that’s exactly how creating feels.”
We’ve all been there. We’ve all survived. And there’s lots of beautiful art, writing, food, music, advertising and more to show for it.
Keep going. It will be worth it.
Meanwhile, if you need a helping hand creating copy for your brand, website, or product launch, get in touch with us today.