It’s A Trap! How Pigeonholing Your Creativity Can Hurt

Being pigeonholed can actively restrict your creativity. It’s a trap!

Focus is important in creativity. It allows you to achieve, rather than wallow about in a swamp of disparate ideas. Knowing what your strengths are, knowing how to use them to their best ability, knowing how to maximise creative opportunities are all elements of focus.

However, there’s a big difference between focus and pigeonholing, and many creative types (or their bosses) forget that. Just because you focus your creativity on developing stunning artworks in one particular medium doesn’t mean that is the only area you should think creatively.

The advertising industry is ride with pigeonholed creatives.
That’s a copywriter. That’s an art director. That’s a digital specialist.

Don’t ask the copywriter to think about integrating his words visually within a digital environment. That’s why we have individual specialists, right?

Yawn. Ok, I’m slightly exaggerating, but only slightly. I’ve dealt with many people who look at me as a specialist in my given medium, assuming I have little value in any other (there are probably a few who think i have little value in any medium, but that’s another story).

It’s a shortsighted attitude, and one that you, as a creative type, should treat very carefully. If you allow yourself to be pigeonholed too strictly, you’re actively allowing your creative output to be reduced.

Think about it. If you’re a writer and create visuals, you gain a new perspective on how words and images combine. If you’re an architect who plays an instrument, your understanding of acoustics may affect your next design. If you’re a painter who sculpts, how much better wil you understand light and shadow the next time you pick up a brush.

Of course, it seems obvious. But it’s often forgotten as we delve deeper into our own specialities. Explore creativity itself as a discipline, and please, please broaden the creative fields in which you work.

Remember a computer geek with a penchant for typography….

Creative Techniques: 4 Creative Tricks That Require No Skills

brilliant_mind_cs2Down and dirty. How do you generate different ideas consistently, without simply regurgitating the same things over and over?

Browse the web (or this blog) and you’ll find hundreds of idea generating posts. From complex techniques through to short and simple tips.

The problem is, and always has been, applying these techniques consistently.


So many people nod sagely and make notes every time they read a new post about idea generation, and then (with all good intentions) fail to follow any technique for more than a couple of days.

It’s human nature. We’re busy, we’re lazy. We forget. We get distracted. Our brains are hardwired for repetition, so we fall back into our old patterns.

So what is the answer? How do you keep the ideas flowing? Well, I’d be wasting your time if I just added another list of techniques, so here are four simple things I do to stay creative, which take no skills at all.

Read. Anything and everything. Read outside your interests. Creativity is input. Soak it up, baby.

Sleep. Get lots of it. If you have a project you’re thinking through, sleep on it.

Walk. Walk away from the desk. Walk in the sunshine. It helps you stay fit, and it helps your mind wander. Believe it or not, it takes discipline to leave your desk!

Turn the radio off in the car. I can’t recommend this from a driver safety perspective, but I can from a thinking perspective. Whenever I drive alone, I have a strict rule. I listen to the radio on one leg of the journey, but turn it off on the other. This forces me to think.

Ok, so it is another list. These tricks take no skill, but they will help you focus on your thinking. A certain level of creativity is inherent in everyone, but for those of us who are expected to perform creatively every day, skills must be improved, and discipline is vital.

Think about it.

Creative Techniques: Have You Ever Been Asked This Question?

volcanoIf you’re a creative type, there’s a good chance you’ve been asked this question. “Where do you get your ideas from?” In fact, Google that phrase and you’ll get over 2 billion responses.

It seems that people who consider themselves non-creative (I don’t believe in that there animal) think there is a definitive source of creativity. A single font from which ideas flow like lava from a volcano.

I believe that creativity is a combination of inherent talent, trainable skill and external input. However, external input can come from many sources, and some are certainly more inspiring than others. While I actively read and research a stack of subjects, there are a few areas that simply soak into the consciousness.

Family. Food. Work. Play.

The basic emotional triggers vary from person to person and culture to culture, but their power to inspire is amazing. Read and research. broaden your horizons, and revel in the things that make you happy. That’s where ideas are born.

Creative Techniques: The Easiest Creative Trick In The World

stevejobsIn a famous Wired article, Steve Jobs said “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something.

It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things…

A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.”

Two things stand out for me. ‘Diverse experiences’ and ‘broad perspective’. One leads naturally to the other. If you work in a creative role, don’t focus completely on your specialty. Read widely. Explore areas that may not seem relevant. Discover. Uncover.

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Creative Techniques: Take Note… Take Notes

notesEveryone has those moments. Those eye popping instants when an idea hits you between the eyes. You give yourself a quick ‘Huzzah!’ and keep doing what you were doing, confident you’ll remember your idea in detail tomorrow, or the next day… or the middle of next Tuesday.

Yeah. Right.

Seriously, if you’re not a note taker, on smartphone or tablet or good old fashioned napkins, then you’re doing yourself a disservice. You can’t remember everything.

Take notes.

Half arsed, scribbled ramblings. Detailed, properly prepared pieces of prose.

It doesn’t matter how you do it, but take the strain off your brain and use notes to kick start your memory.

Never assume you’ll be able to remember that flash of inspiration tomorrow. Write it down today. Right now. Go on, quit reading this and get to work.