When you write copy for a client (or for yourself), you’re not writing fiction… but you’re still writing creatively.
Being creative boils down to making connections and presenting ideas in fresh and interesting ways, and then being able to convey that to a reader, so the impact of your words is more than surface deep.
When you write creatively, you help your reader see things from a new point of view…
You create a lasting impression… one your reader may still talk about years down the road…
You persuade without manipulating…
And you make your reader feel something.
That’s a tall order.
Even taller, when you consider how hard it is to be creative on demand.
You can’t always sit down to your keyboard and just be creative.
But, what you can do is strengthen your creative muscle and give your mind lots of material to work with. When you do these two things as a matter of habit, you’ll find it becomes much easier to slide into that creative mode of thinking, where you’re making unexpected connections that work really well and describing them perfectly as you write.
So, let’s look at some fun ways you can give yourself the tools to be more creative more often.
Get Silly With Constraints
It may seem counterintuitive, but constraints are an excellent spark for creativity.
Put guardrails up, and your brain starts finding ways to work around them or work within them.
Think of sonnets or Haikus. These two types of poems have very specific constraints writers must work within. And you’ll find absolutely beautiful, thought-provoking, heart-stirring examples of each.
To work your own creative muscle, try setting some playful constraints for yourself.
You could pick a question you want to answer and type nonstop for five minutes.
You could write a sales message as a rhyming poem… obviously, you wouldn’t submit that to your client, but the exercise could uncover some unexpected — and brilliant — ideas and connections.
How ever you do it, try being imaginative with the constraints you set… and then watch your own creativity flow.
Use Random Idea Generators
Another creative way to work your creative muscle is to use random idea or word generators.
Some of these generators, like Kita Leigh, give you two random words to play with. For example, my first three clicks got me…
- Cautious eggs
- Intrigued tiger
- Woozy baseball
Next, I would pick one of those combos and do something unexpected with it.
Other generators, like the one offered by Capitalize My Title, give you a random question to use as a conversation starter, journal prompt, or story launch.
If you want to practice being more creative in a fun way, cap off each week by writing something based on the suggestions of a random generator.
Understanding people is one of the greatest strengths you can have as a writer.
One way to deepen your understanding of people — and how well you write about them — is to go somewhere that you can people watch.
Sit and watch the people pass by. Notice all the differences… the different gaits, different levels of urgency, different outfits, different expressions…
This alone can give you a lot of creative fodder to work with, but you can take it one step further.
Pick someone you see who makes an impression on you and write a short story about them.
Read Outside Your Comfort Zone
When I read for pleasure, I tend to have a go-to genre. I like paranormal and science-fiction and fantasy novels. I could happily read in that genre and nothing else, and it would be a very long time before I decided I needed something new.
But I also recognize I get a lot out of reading books that fall outside my normal preference. So, I read broadly… business books, poetry, biographies, psychology books, historical fiction, and whatever my book club is reading this month.
Not only does this kind of broad reading give me more to work with, in terms of ideas… but it also makes me a better writer by exposing me to a variety of writing styles and structures.
Go Play At Midday
Sometimes the best thing for being creative is to do something else entirely and to stop thinking about whatever it is that’s demanding your creativity.
As a freelancer, you have a lot of control over your schedule, so take advantage of that freedom. Once or twice a week, in the middle of the day, go do something fun and completely disconnected from what you’re working on.
Go for a swim at the local Y.
Go play a round of disc golf.
Take in a movie.
Read a book in your favorite coffee shop.
When you’re ready to head home from your midday adventure, pause and revisit your current project in your mind. You might discover you have a new way of looking at it, because you took a little break from it.
Try New Things
One of the best ways to maintain your creative edge and to stoke your overall idea bank is to indulge in new experiences.
And you don’t have to go far from home or spend a lot of money to do it.
Start researching all that your town has to offer in the way of classes, festivals, entertainment, and the outdoors.
At least once a month, visit some place new or do something new. For example, in the past year, I hiked to a section of the Boise River I’d never been to before, I tried several new restaurants, and I attended a free personal-branding event.
Also, pay attention to activities that capture your imagination. This year, I’ve started making artisan sodas.
All of these things are enjoyable in their own right, but they also give me stories and ideas to draw from when I’m writing.
Look At Something Through New Eyes
When you’re working on a project or trying to solve a problem, make it a matter of routine to look at it through other people’s eyes.
How would someone older than you approach it? What about someone younger? What about a child?
How would someone from a different culture think about it?
Reach out to your own connections with different cultural backgrounds or from different generations and ask for their insights. You might find a truly fresh perspective.
When you get in the habit of working your creative muscle and exposing yourself to lots of new ideas and experiences, you’ll find being creative on demand gets much easier. Give it a try!