A Shot in the Arm:


I love a recent article from the Huffington Post. It outlines the 18 things that creative people do differently.

  1. They daydream.
  2. They observe everything.
  3. They work the hours that work for them.
  4. They take time for solitude.
  5. They turn life’s obstacles around.
  6. They seek out new experiences.
  7. They “fail up.”
  8. They ask the big questions.
  9. They people-watch.
  10. They take risks.
  11. They view all of life as an opportunity for self-expression.
  12. They follow their true passions.
  13. They get out of their own heads.
  14. They lose track of the time.
  15. They surround themselves with beauty.
  16. They connect the dots.
  17. They constantly shake things up.
  18. They make time for mindfulness.

It doesn’t matter whether someone is an architect, a Human Resources middle manager, or a producer…everyone can use a creativity boost every now and then. As creative people by trade, those of us in the media-creation business must operate our creativity like a spigot – turning it on and off at a moment’s notice. The following are creativity boosters I’ve actually used and some I’ve gathered from others and intend to try if I ever need them. It’s a long list, so feel free to use whatever works for you.

The Water Method

First I prime the pump. I load in all the program objectives, facts, client quirks, corporate culture and budget parameters. When the pump is primed, I turn on the spigot – literally. A long shower works. So does an afternoon or evening sail. Canoes are good. I do the dishes by hand for a change. Somehow the calming effect of water relaxes the mind and activates something. I have a pen and paper handy and make the creative notes that become the backbone of the program that currently needs the creative boost. For those not near water, I’ve also found that mowing the lawn or listening to classical music also work once the pump is primed. I’ve heard that jogging works but for me it’s hard to imagine being creative when I’m thinking “one more block, one more block, one more block…”

The One Hour Method

I dedicate one hour and complete the entire project. I write the entire script from beginning to end. An architect I know designs his entire house. Edit the whole program. Write the entire marketing plan. Don’t worry about how terrible it will be – just get it over with. Once it’s all on the page, ideas have a way of presenting themselves. Inspiration comes as you work on through project without thinking about being creative. Like creeping Charlie (for those of you who garden) the left side of your brain has a way of working its way in when you’re paying attention to the other side of your yard.

The One Sentence Method

When your creativity is blocked, try summarizing the content into one sentence or thought. My favorite theater professor used to make us do that with Shakespeare. When you get the entire concept down to one sentence (the Reader’s Digest logline), then you can keep your eyes on the goal and work on the means to get there. Think of the last image with which you want to leave the audience and work backwards.

The Bullet Point or Outline Method

Take the objectives, key points, any other content that you’ve assembled and start putting it into a story outline. Don’t go into detail yet, just bullet points. Arrange the points until they flow from start to finish. Then go back and write your way from point to point and make sure you detail the transitions between major topics.

The Thesaurus Method

This one is courtesy of fellow MCA-I member Catherine Silverman in Phoenix. From the objectives, audience, main communication points of the project, identify a dozen key words applicable to the story you’re trying to tell. Then whip out your handy Thesaurus, electronic or otherwise, and start pulling related words that grab your fancy. Concentrate on small, pithy, and precise words that evoke emotion or imagery. Listen to the sounds of the words in combination. You’d be surprised how many ideas this generates.

The Web Method

I’ve used this one recently and it works surprisingly well if you have a high-speed internet connection. Hop on the Information Superhighway and search for anything related to your topic. You’ll get pictures as well as words. I just highlight the interesting parts and copy them into one master word processing document. Grab the pictures too. (Right click and “save as” works with PCs.) You could try brainstorming with your computer and check out the World Future Society in your browsing.

Prime the Pump Method

This one is a variation on the water method. Watch as many movies as you can: the old classics, the new releases and even the ones currently in the theaters. Watching theatrical releases not only primes the pump but it also helps in short-hand speak with your clients. “It’s a Forest Gump moment…” “The body of the program is like a Ken Burns documentary…” or “the data flows on their silhouettes like in The Matrix…”

Watch the Clios, MTV, go to the circus, see a play

When the pump is fully primed you’ll have more to draw upon when you need to turn on the creativity. I’ve found wonderful transitions, interesting character types, cool graphics and all manner of creative ideas in other media and other programs. This is one of the reasons it is so fun to participate in one of the MCA-I judging panels for other chapters. If you’re ever asked to judge – say yes. It’s an opportunity to see a tremendous amount of quality work.


Grab a variety of colored markers or crayons and draw a circle in the middle of a blank piece of paper. Write your key topic or question in the circle. From the circle, sketch out a variety of lines radiating from the circle in various directions, and draw a series of new circles, squares, triangles or other shapes. In each, write whatever comes to your mind based on the middle circle. Continue for a bit, branching out from each new word or phrase to develop yet another series of lines and words. Use colors, shapes, words, drawings or symbols to create an artistic variety. Color freely. For more information, try “The Mind Map Book : How to Use Radiant Thinking to Maximize Your Brain’s Untapped Potential” by Tony Buzan, Barry Buzan (Contributor)

An Audience Insight Handy Hint

Here’s a tip to help you get in tune with popular culture (especially helpful if you don’t have teenagers). BESTSELLER OVERVIEWS — Read the first and last chapters of any current top ten book list. What does it tell you about people? What does it tell you about trends? What are the common subject matters? Who do you see picking up the same book? What ideas for products and/or services are generated?

Source: Huffington Post, “18 Things Highly Creative People Do Differently,” Carolyn Gregoire, March 4, 2014

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