Creative Techniques: What To Do When There’s Nothing New Under The Sun.

Saw a fun initiative from the UK today. A promoter called Animal Control are building a giant papier mache replica of the Queen’s head to provide an alternative celebration on the Thames… the Jubillegal.

A fantastic idea, and I wish I was in the UK, but certainly nothing new, right? Alternatives to main stream events and institutions have been, well almost mainstream themselves for years. In fact, many of the alternatives now have alternatives.

Broadway spawned Off Broadway, which spawned Off Off Broadway. Our grandkids will probably see shows Off Off Off Off Broadway.

Does it matter? is reinventing the old as new a sign off fading creativity?

Absolutely not. Creativity is rarely, if ever, pure invention. It’s looking at the world and reinterpreting the data to create a different approach. The trick is to avoid reinterpreting the data in the same way as every other creative type.  In advertising, we see that problem every day. It’s why so many campaigns seem familiar, and tired.

Don’t fear the idea that there’s nothing new under the sun. Strive to create something new, but remain aware that a lot of what you do will have been done in some form or other in the past. Steve Jobs didn’t create the first portable music player. Da Vinci wasn’t the first person to paint a woman, or even the first to imagine human powered flight (Deadalus beat him to it, among others). Does that diminish their genius? Their creativity?

Your ideas are your own. Your viewpoint is your own. use the web to ensure your idea hasn’t been duplicated exactly, and if it has, don’t throw it out, reinterpret. revise. Look at it from a different angle. There’s nothing new under the sun, but each time it rises, it rises on a new day, and your take on that day can be immensely creative.

Creative Techniques: The Top 5 Traits You Never Knew You Needed

OK, so you’re a creative type. You know you need to be um… creative? Right? So that pretty well covers it?

Not by a long shot. Apart from the standards, creativity, artistic talent et al, there are some more mundane qualities I think any good creative needs.


1. Thick skin. We’re talking rhino quality. You’ll see your ideas ignored, insulted, dismissed without second thought time and time again. Get used to it. It’s just part of the game. I think it was Stephen King who had a massive nail on the wall, where he stuck all his rejection slips. Don’t take the insults personally. Just shrug them off and develop attribute number 2.

2. Patience. No matter how good you are (or think you are), there are going to be endless numpties who think they know better than you. Sometimes they’re right, but usually, they have no idea what they’re talking about. You have to endure their insults, and weather their often ill informed suggestions. Resist the urge to push them down the nearest elevator shaft. It’s a small world, people are usually trying to help in their own way, and even though you’ve heard their dumb idea 30 times before, it’s often the first time they’ve voiced it.

3. A realistic viewpoint. This goes hand in hand with numbers 1 & 2. Of course, you know your painting rivals Da Vinci, or your app idea is going to revolutionise the world, so why isn’t everyone dropping everything to snap you up? The truth is, they have lives and opinions and other things to focus on. And most people don’t like risk, which creativity represents. So don’t expect bowing and scraping at your brilliance. Just work your arse off and prove to everyone that they should have seen your genius earlier (I lost my genius on the train one day. It never came back).

4. Curiosity. This should be on everyone’s list, but sadly, it’s not. You need to develop a curiosity about everything, not just your own field. In my younger, younger days I worked in the theatre, and it pained me to hear actors show a total disinterest in sports, or fishing, or soap operas or anything that smacked of the mundane. Many were immersed in their own worlds and had no curiosity about the outside. If you’re not curious, you’re not maximising your creativity.

5. High work ethic. Being consistently creative is hard work. Ask any author, sculptor or painter. Hell, ask any serious creative type. Sure an amateur can pop out a great idea with zero effort, but if you need to be creative day in, day out, then you need to work at it, and work hard. It’s not an easy discipline.


So those are my top 5 attributes I think any creative type needs. What are yours?

Creative Techniques: Got An Idea? Get A Plan.

The problem with many inexperienced creative types is that they assume creativity and practicality are mutually exclusive. They want to wing it. Every time.
While that’s fine if you’re operating alone, and have no deadlines or client objectives to meet, in the commercial world it spells disaster. It may sound boring, but a plan or method of some sort will not only help you think more effectively, it can help you understand the creative process better and replicate it at need.
Look carefully at what you need to achieve and plan for it properly. What is your timeline? What resources do you need? Who do you need to work with? How do you need to present effectively? How will your results be measured? The list will be specific to your situation, but the very existence of a plan is vital.
Don’t be tempted to dismiss method and planning as ‘old school’ or ‘non creative’. That’s crap. If you want evidence, speak to sculptors, or visual artists. Look to the plans of Michelangelo or Da Vinci. If those guys moved past the ‘just wing it’ stage, perhaps it’s time you did.

Creative Techniques: The Boring Way To Creative Success

Ok, an odd title. Creativity is the birthplace of excitement, right? New ideas. Neurons firing. Light bulbs popping.

I agree, but what comes next? Sadly, it’s the less exciting world of work.

I was once employed as a comedy writer on a very successful capital city breakfast radio show. I was brought in (with another writer) to replace 2 comedians who weren’t cutting it (one went on to become a famous TV personality). Their work was great, but they couldn’t sustain it. They were focused on the Eureka moments, but didn’t see the importance of the boring stuff. However, for sustained success in a competitive environment (and brekky radio is highly competitive and demands constant creativity), you have to do the hard yards as well. It’s sometimes dull, but it actually makes you a better, more effective creative thinker.


So here are my top tips for boring creative success.

1. Be prepared to plod. Once that Eureka moment has passed, there’s still a lot of work to do to get your idea up and running. The Mona Lisa wasn’t slapped onto canvas over a glass of vino on a Tuesday morning. Leonardo Da Vinci laboured for four years to create his masterpiece. You have to be disciplined. Be prepared to work hard, and long. Set yourself specific work times if you need to, but toughen up and keep at it.

“Most people have the will to win, few have the will to prepare to win”.  Bobby Knight

2. Shift focus, but stay focused. I’ve written several times on the need to understand what you’re trying to achieve, and remain on task. This does not mean you should think of nothing but red widgets while you’re trying to invent a red widget. Often you have to step away from a problem. Take a break; think about something else for a while. That’s when Eureka moments happen. But be careful not to get completely distracted. If you’re designing a new artwork, it’s cool to take a break and chat to a mate about BBQ’s. Who knows, you might be inspired to work in charcoal. However, it’s not much use if 2 weeks later you find yourself building a new 6 burner, but no artwork in sight.

3. And finally, filing. Boring, boring, boring. But if you’re in the business of constantly coming up with ideas, you’re probably also regularly dumping good ideas that aren’t right, right now. Don’t. Write them down and file them away. Not on a piece of paper napkin in the bottom of the sock drawer. These days we have things called computers (oh look, you’re using one now). File properly. Cross reference. Tag properly. Make sure you can access your ideas easily, all the time. There are so many great concepts lost because their creators haven’t stored them away.

Creative Techniques: Save Your Ideas For A Rainy day

One of the issues with Creative types is a lack of any sort of organisational process with their idea generation. In some fields it’s easy. Artists keep sketches, writers keep notes, sculptors keep… I don’t know, tiny clay models in their bottom drawers?
In other creative fields, it’s not as simple. If you’re answering a brief from a client, and you pitch half a dozen ideas, what happens to the 5 that get rejected? Do you keep them on file? Or do you simply let them drift away because they weren’t up to scratch on that particular project.
Ideas don’t need to be fresh to be useful. Make sure you have a system to keep all your ideas on hand, and don’t let ego get in the way when you’re in the middle of the idea generation process. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. An idea you had 2 years ago might be the right answer today. If you understand the core of your idea, you can repurpose it.
It’s tough, but worth the effort, and with today’s organisational tech available, there’s really no excuse not to stockpile your ideas for future use. There are myriad apps available for cross referencing, storing images and diagrams, and prompting reminders when needed.

And if you think that creativity is all about throwing up your ideas and then moving on, get over yourself. If collating your ideas is good enough for Da Vinci, it’s good enough for you.