When all hope is lost, just go back to the drawing board
Although working as a creative professional sounds like (and often is) a lot of fun, it is also incredibly exhausting. Clients and ourselves alike expect to produce top notch creativity all the time. But what happens when it just doesn’t come so easy? When the ideas are lame or you’re just burned out? When you’ve racked your brain and stared at your screen so long your screensaver is burned into your retina?
This is a day in the life of a creative professional. Welcome to our world.
Here is what happens. Any one of us is juggling a multitude of projects for various (awesome) clients at a given time, playing the deadline game. We try to pre-plan and brainstorm layouts, visual elements and graphics as much as we can, but ultimately, a lot of creativity happens on the fly, project to project. We’re chugging along, doing great for a while, but at some point, we fall into a rut where everything blends together and we’re not happy with what we’ve produced (clients, keep in mind this is before you ever see anything).
Rather than continue to beat ourselves up or go down rat holes that always end up looking like garbage, we turn to the team for help. As they say, two heads are better than one, and so on and so forth. Unfortunately, these ruts happen often, but lucky for us, we make creativity a weekly exercise.
We’ve created team-drawn monsters, written haikus and limericks, created board games, and have strategized alternative uses for old phone booths.
At Focal Point, we hold weekly creative meetings on Friday mornings (and on demand, as necessary), often accompanied by sweet treats and gallons of caffeinated beverages. These meetings help spark fresh ideas – the seed for creativity to grow.
No single creative meeting is the same, with the exception of our inspiration. If you look hard enough, you can find hundreds of brainstorming books written and created to help with brainstorming and creativity (there’s also a bazillion web resources as well). We get our jump-start from Stefan Mumaw and Wendy Lee Oldfield’s Caffeine for the Creative Team, and we also own Caffeine for the Creative Mind, which offers more individualized exercises that we pass around when we need a quick jolt.
Some of these exercises require a pen and paper, some a whiteboard and markers or perhaps a camera phone, while others have just been our imagination and good old-fashioned banter. The results though, never disappoint. We’ve created team-drawn monsters, written haikus and limericks, created board games, and have strategized alternative uses for old phone booths.
The point is, the exercises get us thinking outside the box – the wackier and zanier, the better. I always recommend shooting for the stars, because you can always pull back and tone down an idea, but you’ll never know if you don’t explore those far-fetched ones.
Finally, what might be the most important factor: reach outside your comfort zone! Often, this is why we’re in a rut to begin with. We get comfortable. So change things up. Do things that aren’t normally in your wheelhouse or repertoire. Push your boundaries and explore new techniques, new thought processes, new angles. We promise, as we can attest to through our own hands on experience every week, it will open up doors to your brain you didn’t know existed.
Let loose and creativity will follow.