Approaching Creativity As A Work-In-Progress
Today’s guest blog is by Cali Harris, a grad student, work-in-progress entrepreneur, salsa dancer and lover of Colorado. When she’s not writing her thesis, she’s usually found in coffee shops meeting new people, working on business ideas or sharing 140 characters at a time on Twitter. You can find her antics at Caligater.com.
Maintaining creativity in a space that is saturated with ideas
The internet is so wide, intricate and layered that it can feel like a no-man’s land—whether you published your very first blog post this morning or if you were in AOL chat rooms from the second you received that first “1000 Hours Free! CDROM Free Trial Disk” in the mail in the mid-1990s.
It’s easy to feel intimidated or overwhelmed by the immediacy and quantity of content on the web. Don’t allow it to stunt your growth. You are authentically you—trust that you do, indeed, have something to add to this wide web of conversation and information. In fact, use all that content to help you springboard into your next project.
Whatever space you inhabit on the internet—whether it’s a company website, personal blog, retail marketplace, or social media account—fostering and renewing your creativity is critical in defining who you are and your scope of influence. Creativity doesn’t have to be an existential experience that strikes you at unpredictable times. You can grow and develop your creative skills daily and weekly. Here are some ways to get started:
- Know your vision – Why do you want to be online? Whether for reasons that are personal, professional or both, consider why you want to be online and how you envision your online future. Need a fun, motivating kick-start? Check out this article on creating your personal manifesto.
- Read – Spend time reading—every single day. Read blogs, online articles, magazines, trade publications, books or (gasp!) newspapers. Shoot, read the back of the shampoo bottle. Or actually read the entire “Terms and Conditions” pop-up you must agree to when you register on a website. (Okay…maybe not.) But reading a one-line photo caption or the collected works of Shakespeare can have the same effect: inspiration. It only takes a turn of phrase or one word to plant a creative seed.
- Look and see – Observe the small and big things of your day. Each day I challenge myself to take a snapshot—usually a mental snapshot, but sometimes an actual photo—of an object, person, conversation, taste, mistake. At some point during the day I make note of why this snapshot was poignant. Often, just the act of scribbling it down sparks a fresh idea. Speaking of snapshots, I just learned about the 365 Project and will be snapping photos to document 2010—another habit to trigger creativity.
- Listen – Have a conversation and listen to someone. Meet up with your brother-in-law, a former boss, your cube neighbor or your yoga instructor. Meet up with someone with whom you’ve shared tweets, comments, or emails but haven’t yet met “in real life.” Invite them to coffee or lunch and really listen. Setting aside a specific time with the goal to listen can be surprisingly different experience than the usual Friday happy hour with the coworkers or the occasional phone call with your best friend. The way these people talk about their own projects, or slide in a funny quip, or tell a tall tale about their last fishing trip may be just the creative prompt you need. Try taking away one concept or word and mind-mapping it—whether online or with pen and paper.
- Take risks – Try something outside of your comfort zone. To stay creative in your online space, you have to take risks. Are you launching a new product? Run a catchy giveaway contest and don’t be afraid to part with a few products—the marketing return will be worth the investment. Have you been thinking of a blog post topic but worry it may be controversial? Draft the post. Sleep on it. Hit the “publish” button. You may receive negative comments in addition to positive ones—but the important thing is you’re creating a conversation. As a dancer, some of my most creative choreography was a result of trying a move I was 110% sure would look ridiculous or weird…but some of those gangly moves ended up working out. Creativity sometimes means feeling a bit squirmy in your own skin. Not every single idea will be your best. That’s okay—just keeping busting a gut.
Every once in awhile, creativity will strike you as an “a-ha!” revelation, but most of the time creativity takes some elbow grease. Put in the time and energy to stay creative in a space that is saturated with ideas. Take on creativity as a work-in-progress skill—one that you can push, pull, prod, explode, rebuild, nurture and expand. Now go get your creativity on!