by Barbara Florio Graham
This is the last of five articles about how you can increase your creativity to achieve your goals.
These articles are not structured the same as the online course I teach. Do consider taking that tutorial, which is customized for you, with specific comments on assignments. I offer it on a flexible schedule, to suit your busy life. Go to my website to see the full description and testimonials.
Do you often wonder, when you watch a clever TV commercial, how ad agencies generate ideas?
I worked at an ad agency for a brief time the year after I graduated from university and realized the best technique was to toss out random ideas, doodle on a white board, and create an atmosphere more like a playground than an office.
It wasn’t unusual for a creative director to dance around the table while an artist circulated quick sketches, some of which were balled up and tossed, or shredded into ribbons. These were not destructive acts, but rather a way to see ideas in a different way.
Throughout history, inventors have taken conventional ideas and added a touch of novelty.
Professor Colin Raston, a chemist from Flinders University in South Australia, solved a problem in his lab by successfully unboiling an egg, reverting gelatinous whites back into liquid form. It was an achievement that in 2015 earned the research team an Ig Nobel Prize for Chemistry.
The brains of creative geniuses and people with schizophrenia are similar in surprising ways. They both have an extremely active precuneus, the area that facilitates daydreaming and free association. The only difference is that unlike people with schizophrenia, creative geniuses can distinguish between fantasy and reality.
I’ve always believed in the adage that if something is hard, you should figure out how to make it easier, and if it seems impossible, you should see if you can find a way to attempt it.
That’s what led me to train the first Simon Teakettle as if he were a dog. Not only did that work remarkably well, but my article, “Training Your Cat Like a Dog”, won the $1,000 special award for best article on training from the Cat Writers’ Association.
We have no idea what the brain is capable of. Humans are able to learn several languages at once, and many different musical instruments, in childhood.
I had a college roommate who played 16 different musical instruments. She had learned most of them simultaneously as a child, because her parents loved music and Sandy’s curiosity was happily satisfied at will. She was brilliant and so multi-talented that she became a leading art historian. She has now, at age 80, started to write mysteries based in the art world. And she still plays the flute, guitar, and percussion!
Recent experiments with helping to increase reading speed and comprehension have revealed that we take in information in different ways. Some people read more quickly and retain more information when lines are shorter, or when fonts are bolder, or are different colors. A new pattern called BeeLine starts a new sentence in the middle of a line in a different color, so that the beginning of each line is in a different color than the ones above and below. That’s a creative use of color put to good use!
Improvisational performers trained at Second City mention the technique they use called “Yes, and…”
This is a way to extend a current idea into new territory.
There are other creative prompts you might try when you think you’ve reached the end of a scene, or are stuck finding a clever way to promote your work. Try “And yet…” or “Or maybe…”
Design Taxi, a group that creates new products for existing companies, describes the basics of the design process. Here are their five steps, which you might want to use when you’re designing a logo, your website home page, or promotional materials:
Empathize: Learn about and understand your audience.
Define: Narrow the problem you’re addressing to a simple statement.
Ideate: Brainstorm solutions to your problem statement.
Prototype: Create a first draft of your design to demonstrate your solution to a potential audience.
Test: Show your prototype to your sample audience, then gauge reactions and adapt as necessary.
Meanwhile, here’s something to ponder, from Trina Paulus: “How does one become a butterfly?
You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar.”
Barbara Florio Graham is an award-winning author, publishing consultant, and marketing strategist. Her popular workshop on creativity has won accolades from participants all over the world, and is now taught as an online tutorial. See the wealth of free information on her website: SimonTeakettle.com.