the sally sisson blog


March 21, 2011

10+ Tips on Combating Creative Block

Thanks to readers for responding to my last blog post:

March Madness: Celebrating creativity and the (sometimes maddening) creative process

image from williamsrandall.com

Tracy Graves, digital + social media consultant
B4South
When I’m stuck, the world easily descends into a maelstrom of despair. And then, to re-jigger myself, I spend oodles of time looking at other people’s work. I try and take the pressure off and create something for myself instead of for a client. I read something utterly escapist and don’t worry about whether I’m intellectually furthering myself. And most importantly, I accept the fact that I need to get at least 5 crappy versions of something out of the way, and then something will emerge worth keeping.

Christopher Harting, photographer + philosopher
Christopher Harting Studio
Go to Manhattan. Walk around and look at stuff. Drink coffee. Walk around some more. But you know the truth? I never have that problem. Never, ever, ever.

John DiCocco, creative director, writer + editor
(and reporter for the Tiny Mind Gazette)

I’m pretty fortunate in that I have rarely suffered this dreaded event, except when writing ad copy. And when that occurs, I have a standby tactic. I start asking outlandish questions:
“What if the whole thing was blue?”
“What if your parents spoke two different languages and you didn’t understand either one?”
“What if you knew everything that was going to happen one hour ahead of time?”

What’s the worst that could happen—I mean, really, the WORST?
Okay, backtrack from there. “What if it/he/the nation were twice/half as big/small/loud/dense/bright etc?”

Michael Calienes, creative director + copywriter
Transplant
Self-induced water boarding.
Cuban music in the background.
Freedom.

Kelley Rugg, producer, director, writer + videographer
Rowboat Productions
Creativity is not about making or forcing but about allowing and trusting, and so what I do when I feel any type of block is understand that I am causing it by trying too hard… so then I let go, get out of the way, and absolutely keep going.

Trebor Healey, poet + novelist
treborhealey.com
I think it’s best to shift your surroundings, take a trip, small or big, spend time in nature…go to museums, dance performances, concerts…other creative ventures will inspire your own, will put you in the creative reality. If all else fails, revisit your favorite writers’ or artists’ work like a bee dropping in on the hive of honey and you will once again know how to get to the flowers you seek.

Doug Eymer, creative director + designer 
EYMER Design Laboratories + Think Tank
Procrastination is such a negative term. I prefer to think of it as getting all of your ducks in a row.
Here’s the real dear, you awake from hibernation in a cranky mood. Your immediate reaction to EVERYTHing is: “I’m right, the LOSERS that have been grinding their teeth all winter are WRONG!”
So, because you have been asleep and avoiding the family check book, you stand at the very end of the protective barriers and say, “So What! I have been dead for the last couple of months, what is the difference in a few eternal centuries more?”

Doug Williams, writer + director
@Writeous Outrage and FUSE5
Here’s one from the director I worked with in NY during my playwriting days. She said the best way to beat block was to find famous quotes on the subjects (or themes) you’re writing about, and then make them your own.
The quotes serve as idea factories that 1) give you another perspective; 2) take you in a direction you’d likely have never found yourself; and 3) reinvigorate the internal creative process by making you think about something familiar in a completely different way. I’ve been doing that for years – in screenplays, novels, speeches, PR/marketing, online writing, et al – and it’s never failed me once.

David Game, academic publisher (+ nice husband)
Terence Rattigan, British playwright, was advised to join the RAF [Royal Air Force] to cure writer’s block.

Joe Lee
@ joelee.me
When in doubt or stuck, I doodle. Doodling to me is active so it literally gets me going. It’s my physical technique to kick start a mental stream of consciousness. Since my doodles are not even worthy of being called a sketch, they are uninhibited and uncensored. Also, I use scraps of paper, napkins, recycled printed sheets, anything that has no feeling of preciousness whatsoever, not even post-its or sketchbooks. (Think about how many artists who like to flaunt and show off their “sketchbooks.”) Start here, there, or anywhere – JUST DOODLE IT. As Bucky Fuller once said, “How often I found where I should be going only by setting out for somewhere else.”


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March 13, 2011

March Madness: celebrating creativity + the (sometimes maddening) creative process

image from John Kelly's "Procrastination" video

Get inspired

Anyone else out there been in a slump this winter? Here’s a great collection of video clips from 99% to shake the cobwebs from the cranium. Check it out:

10 Awesome Videos on Idea Execution + The Creative Process

Spring forward

This coming week I’ll be covering creativity in my blog and would love folks to contribute thoughts, ideas, doodles, random musings or guest blog posts. Whatever you like.

Battling creative block

Last spring I posted the following three pieces to give myself a kick-start:

Here Comes the Sun: Overcoming creative block (part 1 of many)

Overcoming Creative Block (part 2): Writing, procrastination + keeping a sense of humor

Overcoming Creative Block (part 3): Elizabeth Gilbert on nurturing creativity

Tell me:

When it’s cold and gray (or when it’s hard to come up with something creative to draw, design, write or say), where do you look for inspiration? How do you break out of a slump and get back in gear? If you’re stuck in a long and tedious project, how do flex your creative muscles on the side? I’d love to read your comments below. Thanks!

9 Comments

January 24, 2011

The Life (and Death?) of STORYTELLING: Ten top posts of 2010

image from getstoried.com
image from getstoried.com

Once upon a time… storytelling was the domain of kindergarten classrooms and creative writing courses. Over the past decade it’s found its way into advertising, marketing and business consulting, and countless articles on all of the above.

Stories inspire and connect us. From ancient cave paintings to Super Bowl commercials to transmedia storytelling, they illustrate, resonate and—when done well—stick with us for a long time.

Here are some of my top picks on the topic. Instead of synthesizing what’s already been written so well, I’ll let these speak for themselves.

1. Harvard Business Review: The Power of Storytelling

In a conversation with HBR, Robert McKee, the world’s best-known screenwriting lecturer, argues that executives can engage people in a much deeper—and ultimately more convincing—way if they toss out their PowerPoint slides and memos and learn to tell good stories.

2. Copyblogger: How to Captivate Your Audience with Story (From America’s Greatest Living Playwright)

There’s been a fevered interest in the art of storytelling among the marketing crowd recently. We are told that story—applied to salesmanship, preaching, advertising, conversation, marketing, songwriting, and blogging—contains the power to deliver the world to the deft storyteller’s door. But what is a well-told story? Take a lesson from David Mamet.

3. Chris Brogan: Storytelling for Business

Stories are how we learn best. We absorb numbers and facts and details, but we keep them all glued into our heads with stories.

4. Smashing Magazine: Better User Experience with Storytelling

Our information…has become watered down, cloned, and is churned out quickly in 140-character blurbs. We’ve lost that personal touch where we find an emotional connection that makes us care. Using storytelling, however, we can pull these fragments together into a common thread. We can connect as real people, not just computers.

5. Ten Ways to Story Your Business (or Product or Brand)

Nine wise tips, plus #10: Remember that if you don’t tell your story, your story will probably get told for you—in a way that may damage your business.

image from semanticstudios.com
image from semanticstudios.com
6. Content Rules: What Does Business Have to Do With Storytelling?

The idea of storytelling as it applies to business isn’t about spinning a yarn or fairytale. Rather, it’s about how your business exists in the real world: how people use your products—how they add value to people’s lives, ease their troubles, help shoulder their burdens, and meet their needs.

7. Mark Levy: Telling the Same Story Differently

An insightful post inspired by Matt Madden’s ingenius cartoon book “99 Ways to Tell a Story.”

8. Transmedia Storytelling: The Psychological Power of Story

The ultimate mashup of ancient traditions and new communications models.

9. Harvard Business Review: When Storytelling Isn’t Enough

Fast Company founder Alan Webber says storytelling is overrated and declares, “Content isn’t king, context is king!”

10. Bite: The Death of Storytelling?

“We are all striving to tell stories. But are we making more noise than news?”

What do you think?

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