You must give creativity some love to make it appear
Andreas Loizou teaches business storytelling to clients around the world. His latest book, The Story is Everything, is packed with tips to promote your creative business by telling great stories about what you do.
Andreas is also the main man behind one of my local literary festivals, The Margate Bookie, so it feels natural to stroll along Westbrook Bay talking with him about ways to be more creative.
We’re all naturally creative, he says. But many of us have hidden our creativity, especially at work. Phrases like creative consultant, creative solution and even creativity circle kill originality and imagination stone dead.
The natural creativity we had as children – when a cardboard box became a dolls’ house and a garden was an entire empire – is still with us, buried and a little rusty like an old spade forgotten under sand. A polish and a clean are all it needs to shine again.
Here are five techniques that will get the creative genie to leap out of the magic lamp.
1. Pretend to be someone different
What would happen if your story had a different narrator?
Acting like someone from a different country or era encourages new approach. Switching gender, or finding a place between genders, will most definitely change the cultural assumptions of the storyteller. Thinking yourself into someone else’s shoes will always lead to a massive change in voice.
2. Become a child again
Children are proud of what they create, but they’re very rarely precious. They know their lovely sandcastle will be washed away by the tide, so they pick up the shells and use them on the next one.
When you watch children playing, it’s easy to see that their imaginations are unlimited. Fun, original and awe-inspiring ideas spring up without the use of the office whiteboard.
Crazy, I know! So buy some sweets for your inner child and let them play.
3. Copy without producing fakes
Sometimes I advise my stuck clients to write in a particular style. The romantic give and take of Sally Rooney perhaps, or the terseness of Ernest Hemingway. I ask them to copy out a paragraph by a favourite author and then change words – nouns, an adjective, then a verb – to produce something entirely new that still has echoes of a successful writer.
Do this with pen and paper, rather than computer, to get a more visceral connection with the writing and your ideal author. You’ll fill the empty page in no time with original text while learning the rhythm of another writer.
As you imitate more you’ll write more. Don’t be afraid to emulate. Leonardo, El Greco and Rubens started as apprentices, and they all seem to have done well by learning their craft from a master.
4. We’re all better in the morning
Working late is OK if you’ve got a life-or-death deadline to meet, but it saps your energy. The next morning you’ll be shattered and stale. Don’t ever work late through choice – even the most dedicated night owl knows this is a poor move.
When you’re asleep, your unconscious mind continues working. You won’t be aware of this, but neither are you aware that the waves are still lapping the shore while you’re dozing in a deckchair.
Your mind may dream up a new product or some snappy advertising copy. Answers to problems may bubble up. And even if the midnight muse doesn’t appear to you, a good night’s sleep will help you see things in a clearer light in the morning.
5. Find more time to do nothing
Creativity drains us. I never write for more than three hours a day, because I like being fresh and relaxed. My perception of time got seriously skewed during the second lockdown of 2020. Some days passed in seconds, but an afternoon of Zoom calls seemed to last a month. I heard tale after tale of friends burning out through overwork or lack of work, getting stressed because they had too much or too little on their To Do lists.
Whatever you call it – mindfulness, zoning out – make sure you have time every day to switch off. Meditation is a smart way to replenish and rejuvenate. I suggest you take a course at a reputable yoga centre rather than online, because there’s power in group meditation.
If that’s not your thing, just sit somewhere you feel safe and relax as many muscles as you can. (I always begin with the muscles at the side of my jaw, which is where I store a lot of tension.) Lighten and lengthen your breathing. Start off with a minute, and tomorrow you’ll want to do two.