General Journalism / Inspiration and Editors / Journalism skills

The best mindset to encourage creativity

… is when you aren’t trying to be creative at all.

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I admit, I forced myself to be creative for the above photo. Forced myself in the sense that I set myself an afternoon on a Sunday (with a little help) to make some photos for my blog. Because ‘Googling’ said images just doesn’t cut it anymore, does it? With the wealth of bloggers becoming pretty pro at photography as well as words, it just puts pressure on everyone else to take their own photos, too…

But this post is about creativity. Creativity is something everyone yearns to have, especially in the journalism industry. In fact, any industry, any job, any task you’re set, creativity can lead to the best results. The more creative your idea, the more money it might bring in for the business. Or the more views you might get, which might bring in more advertising. There’s so much pressure to be creative that when you’re aware of it, when you know you HAVE to be creative on that certain day at work, or on a certain feature you’re writing, it just doesn’t come.

I don’t think I’m a naturally creative person. Organised, logical, efficient – yes. But creative? Not quite. I’ve always really wanted to be described as being creative, but my brain works in a way that I want to get stuff done, by the deadline, to the right standard. I don’t naturally spend more time brainstorming something, to then have to rush to finish it, just because I know this is a much better, and yep, more creative way of doing it. That’s something I’ve had to learn.

But in a job where deadlines are frequent, and creativity is key, I’ve learned that it doesn’t come when you want it to, and so you’re consciously sat there with a pen in your hand a blank piece of paper. Forced creativity is the worst, and produces overdone ideas that you’re trying to bring out as your own. Switching your mind on constantly, to allow ideas to come in and out of your brain at any time of the day, in whatever your situation you’re in is, what I’ve found, to be the best.

I used to kick myself in my half an hour brainstorming sessions when I just couldn’t think of anything great. I couldn’t think of ideas that I would be proud of, or ones to shout out about. And yes, it’s so frustrating, because how can you be in a job that solely is based on your creativity, when you can’t do it at all? But as soon as I stopped thinking about it so much, stopped forcing myself this creative space, and allowed myself to think about it outside of work, or on a run, or at work when I wasn’t expecting it to come, it came naturally. Subconsciously. And it’s not until I looked back on my work several weeks later that I’m like yeah, that was a pretty good idea, Amy.

But it wasn’t forced.

Don’t kick yourself for not being as great as that person you’re comparing yourself to on social media, who is just good at everything. Because you can learn things that don’t come naturally to you. Some people are natural journalists – they’re confident and on point and know exactly what questions to ask. Others have to learn it. And it’s probably only recently that I realised to myself that you can learn this sort of stuff. You can learn how to be better at writing, more creative. You can learn how to be more confident in a situation where you couldn’t feel more vulnerable. You CAN learn how to be creative.

So here some of the ways I’ve improved my mindset, to let that creativity in my brain…

Having time to yourself

This is SO overrated. Seriously. You’re sat in a coffee shop and you see someone sat their on their own. You probably come to two conclusions: a) they’re waiting for someone, b) they have no friends. Maybe society is slightly changing their opinion on this, but it’s true. It’s seen as embarrassing to go to a coffee shop alone, or shopping on your own, or maybe even for a run. But it’s probably one of the best times to let your mind wander. When you’re with other people your mind is constantly thinking – thinking about the conversation you’re having, where you’re going next, your opinion on what is being said, the place you’re in. Your brain is distracted. When you’re on your own, yes you might be thinking about what to cook for dinner, or what your plans are that evening, but without realising, you’re allowing ideas to come in and out your head. Being alone is a top habit of highly creative people. I didn’t just make that up I swear.

Not being judgmental

I’m a sucker for this. I’ll have an idea and within three seconds I’ve told myself it’s shit and JEEZ why can’t I come up with better ideas. Great ideas that will go viral on Twitter and receive a shed load of views and make my work so famous… we all do it. We’re so hard on ourselves and our work that some of our best ideas are probably squashed before they’ve even had the chance of life. Don’t assume you know everything about what’s great and what’s not. I know I don’t. I’ve written features at work that I thought were pretty average, that ended up doing really well. Try stuff out, see how it does, see the reaction. And if it isn’t the best idea, then so what? Try something different.

Observe others

Just like authors should read books, you should be reading, looking or listening at the creative skill that you want to be better at. I’m guilty of never doing this. I always wanted to write, and yet I rarely ever read. I’m one of those binge-readers. I’ll go on holiday and read about five books within a week, and then not another one until there’s a huge craze (Gone Girl) and people are like Amy you have to read this. How can you get better at something if you’re not seeing what else is out there? The rise in online content has helped me find places to always go and find something new to read. I read things that I think are great, and they inspire me. But it’s important to add your own touch or twist to it – sometimes the hardest bit.

Practise your skill, just practise!

I can explain this with my situation of blogging. I want my blog to be interesting to read. I want to write what I want to write about, but I also want others to enjoy reading it. I have times on my blog where I’m blogging once a week, and I choose topics and ideas randomly and just get on with it. And then I don’t blog for two or three weeks, and I start to get this anxious feeling that I don’t know what I should write. The less regular I am with it, the harder it is to think up posts. And then I get to the point where I haven’t blogged in a month so there’s pressure for the next post to be great. It’s bad for your brains! Practise your skills as much as possible, to stop the pressure of making it GREAT.

Now go out there and be creative…!

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One thought on “The best mindset to encourage creativity

  1. ” until there’s a huge craze (Gone Girl) and people are like Amy you have to read this”

    To which I hope you responded: “No, I’m unlikely to get much sophisticated reading from trashy chick-lit?”

    Books like that are not challenging – they are deliberate easy-reads intended for the mass market.

    Admittedly I do find classical literature a harder slog but it is that same complexity that forces us into new territory in language.

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