Exercises for being creative on demand

November 10, 2017

by Georgina Guthrie

Being creative on demand is one of the best, and worst things about working in an agency. 

On good days, you’re in the zone and ideas burst out of you. But there are other days when coming up with just one is like wading through mud. Nothing feels right, you’re tired, it’s noisy, a billion other daily problems that come with working in an office are set to try you, and you just don’t feel like it. Your brain shuts down and you have nothing fresh to say. 

Sadly, these excuses just don’t wash when deadlines are looming.  

The worst part is, this is usually a vicious cycle. The pressure to be creative on demand creates anxiety, which is scientifically proven to be a sure-fire creativity killer. Creative anxiety tells you that no one cares, that you sound stupid, that you’re no good. 

So how do you break the cycle and kick-start your creative thinking? 

Here are some things that help.

Step away from the desk

You need a fresh perspective, so step away from the desk and go somewhere new. 

It may sound counterproductive to go for a wander when deadlines are tight, but the change of scene and removal of immediate pressure to create something will allow your mind to relax and think more freely. You may drift off on a different tangent, but this could be just what you need to crack the brief. 

Tangents are good. Don’t fight them!

Get some peace and quiet

Silence helps the creative brain fire up. Agencies are warming to the concept and adding snugs and hideaways in their offices to help creatives get some peace and quiet. If your office has these, then great. If you can go for a walk – even better. 

The gentle stimulus will give your mind the freedom to wander and give your creativity a boost. If you work somewhere where silence isn’t an option and you’re tied to your desk, then turn to your headphones and listen to music. 

As a copywriter, I find music with no lyrics, or lyrics in another language is the least distracting. 

Try something new

So you’ve had a staring competition with a new brief and lost. Here’s what you should do:

Choose a new medium. If you’re a writer, pick up a crayon. If you’re a designer, grab the camera. You’re not a master of this, so there’s no pressure to be perfect. Enjoy your new creative freedom to fail – you’ll find you’re more adventurous in the process.

Do the opposite

Don’t get too hung up on the brief. 

Instead, try and head off in a totally different direction and see where you end up. Acknowledging that this isn’t the end product takes the pressure off a little, which gives you more space and energy to have creative ideas. 

So write down everything your topic is, then write the opposite of these things and take it from there.

DISCLAIMER: This won’t magically make a fully formed idea land in your lap. It’s just another way to limber up your creative thinking. And you never know, it could be the spark that becomes something (with plenty of hard work, of course). 

Stay focussed

Multitasking has been championed as a skill, but science-types have proven that it lowers the quality of our work and increases the amount of time we take to do one task. 

It makes sense – multitasking involves spreading yourself thinly over a multitude of tasks, rather than focusing on one. 

So when you have a creative deadline, remove as many distractions as possible. Email, Facebook and if possible, noise. If, like me, you find it difficult to resist online distractions, then take extreme measures: there are several websites and plugins that block your chosen websites for a predefined time.

And if all else fails?

Take a nap, and pay attention to your dreams, you might find inspiration there. And keep a notebook by your bed, just in case. 

Want to become a better writer? Our Copywriter Georgina takes a look at nine traits of bad writers and what to avoid, click here for the article