Tag Archive | "Creativity"

7 Easy Creativity Routines that Make Your Day More Rewarding

What does your dream creative career look like? Take a moment to think about it. Now, how many steps are…

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Communication, Creativity, and a Sweet Halloween Deal on Our New Copywriting Course

The big news for us this week is, of course, the new copywriting course. If you didn’t see the announcement…

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Why Staying Curious Is So Important for Creativity

If you’re like me, you probably take for granted the complex quantum computer that is your brain. And when you…

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How to Build a Trusted Framework that Expands Your Content Creativity

Psst … hey, Copyblogger is taking the week off between Christmas and New Year’s. At least, officially. I’m not supposed to be here at all. But, given that my schedule is always out of whack this time of year, I like to take advantage of the disruptions to think about what I want to make
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How to Unlock the Door to Effective Content with Your Creativity

How to Unlock the Door to Effective Content with Your Creativity

We definitely had a creativity thread weaving through the week, both on the blog and the podcasts.

On Monday, I continued our “Quick Copy Tips” series by talking about the difference between benefits and features. It’s one of the first topics covered in nearly every copywriting book, but even experienced writers often get it wrong — because it can be so tricky to see with fresh eyes. I gave you a fast way to do exactly that.

On Tuesday, Stefanie addressed that nasty creativity killer: perfectionism. It takes many forms and hides in many disguises. She reminded us of the one thing we all have to do to defeat it.

And on Wednesday, we posted our creativity and productivity prompts for August. We’re offering a new pair of prompts for you every month this year, to help you create stronger work and more of it. This month’s prompts were heavily influenced by Growing Gills, Jessica Abel’s terrific book on productivity for creative people.

Over on Copyblogger FM, we republished an episode on writing (much better) blog comments. Blog comments can be a surprisingly great way to forge connections with web publishers … but there’s definitely a right way and a wrong way. Quit writing flat, stale comments and start leaving comments that actually make an impact.

And in an encore episode of The Writer Files, Kelton Reid shared a fascinating conversation with neuroscientist Michael Grybko about the nature of creativity — where it comes from and how to nurture it.

That’s it for this week — have a great weekend, and we’ll see you Monday. :)

— Sonia Simone

Chief Content Officer, Rainmaker Digital


Catch up on this week’s content


quick copy tipBoost the Relevance of Your Content with Benefits and Features

by Sonia Simone


you can care about quality and produce meaningful work without driving yourself crazyThe Non-Perfectionist’s Guide to Noteworthy Blogging for Your Business

by Stefanie Flaxman


2017 Content Excellence Challenge: The August Prompts2017 Content Excellence Challenge: The August Prompts

by Sonia Simone


How to Write (Much Better) Blog CommentsHow to Write (Much Better) Blog Comments

by Sonia Simone


How to Write (Much Better) Blog CommentsHow to Know Exactly What Content You Should Create

by Jerod Morris


The Best of ‘The Writer’s Brain’ Part One: CreativityThe Best of ‘The Writer’s Brain’ Part One: Creativity

by Kelton Reid


How Website Personalization Grows Your Business Faster, with Brennan DunnHow Website Personalization Grows Your Business Faster, with Brennan Dunn

by Brian Clark


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The Path to Freedom, More Creativity, and … Really Good Audio Quality

The Path to Freedom, More Creativity, and ... Really Good Audio Quality

We kicked off the holiday week on Monday with your July creativity and productivity prompts.

Each month this year, we’re suggesting practical ideas to improve your content and help you get more done. In July, we’re challenging you to select two content types that are new to you and schedule an extra hour each day to work on something meaningful.

(If one of your new content types is audio, be sure to check out Wednesday’s post this week as well.)

Tuesday was U.S. Independence Day, and I shared my latest thoughts on three steps toward greater economic and time independence: growing your audience, creating a revenue stream, and committing to growth and learning.

Each of those three is a big topic, which is why it’s our privilege to help you with them throughout the year.

On Wednesday, Toby Lyles, who was instrumental to the development of our Rainmaker FM podcast network, gave some of his best tips on how to get that smooth pro sound from your audio — without killing your budget.

Toby has given me some fantastic tips for improving my own recordings over the years, and I’m so glad we convinced him to write a post for us!

That’s it for this week — have a great weekend, and we’ll see you Monday. :)

— Sonia Simone

Chief Content Officer, Rainmaker Digital


Catch up on this week’s content


2017 Content Excellence Challenge: The July Prompts2017 Content Excellence Challenge: The July Prompts

by Sonia Simone


How to Carve Out Your Own Slice of IndependenceHow to Carve Out Your Own Slice of Independence

by Sonia Simone


your sound should be a welcome mat that invites the listener in for what feels like a face-to-face conversation10 Easy Tips for Professional Audio Quality

by Toby Lyles


How to Attract Your Ideal Customer with Perfectly Positioned ContentHow to Attract Your Ideal Customer with Perfectly Positioned Content

by Jerod Morris


How to Create Stability and Success as an ArtistHow to Create Stability and Success as an Artist

by Sonia Simone


How Award-Winning Short Story Writer Abigail Ulman Writes: Part OneHow Award-Winning Short Story Writer Abigail Ulman Writes: Part One

by Kelton Reid


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The Balance of Creativity and Productivity

The Balance of Creativity and Productivity

If you read Copyblogger for any length of time, you’ll notice a theme that comes up again and again — the balance of creative “arty stuff” with pragmatic productivity.

Creativity makes our content worth reading. Strategic implementation gets us where we want to go. Each depends on the other.

On Monday, Stefanie Flaxman talked about cultivating a Pomeranian state of mind to expand your creativity. (Read the post to find out why you actually do want to do this.)

And on Tuesday, she outlined a plan to use that Pomeranian creativity to actually make something that other people want to read, watch, or listen to.

Finally, on Wednesday, our editorial team sent me their favorite writing books — a healthy mix of the arty, the crafty, and the strategic.

Over on the Copyblogger FM podcast, I shared two resources that have seriously impressed me — one on the science of learning (this is great if you’re improving your skills, but it will also be incredibly useful for course creators) and one on creative focus (hello shiny).

Want to make great leaps in your writing this summer? Get your Inner Pomeranian going, pick up some of the books on the reading list, sharpen that focus just a bit, and decide on a project to implement with Stefanie’s plan. By September, you’ll be amazed at how far you’ve come.

That’s it for this week — have a great weekend, and we’ll see you Monday. :)

— Sonia Simone

Chief Content Officer, Rainmaker Digital


Catch up on this week’s content


creativity is not linear This Common Belief Could Be Blocking Your Creative Potential

by Stefanie Flaxman


think about where you could be one year from now if you start todayA Simple Plan for Managing and Completing a Content Project

by Stefanie Flaxman


Editorial RoundtableYour Summer Reading List from the Copyblogger Editorial Team

by Sonia Simone


Two Powerful Resources for Life-Changing GrowthTwo Powerful Resources for Life-Changing Growth

by Sonia Simone


How Merriam-Webster Lexicographer and Author Kory Stamper Writes: Part OneHow Merriam-Webster Lexicographer and Author Kory Stamper Writes: Part One

by Kelton Reid


8 Ways Startups Can Make Money with an Online Audience8 Ways Startups Can Make Money with an Online Audience

by Brian Clark


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What Is Creativity? 21 Authentic Definitions You’ll Love [Free Poster]

inspiration - how creatives define creativity

She was an odd mix of soft skin and rowdy in the mouth.

And by that, I mean she was bright, chirpy, and quick with the quirky jokes, ribbing it with the best of them, but prone to fits of sobbing at the first sign of disagreement.

I needed to be cautious. To curb my Neanderthal-like love for hurling abuse at editorial outlaws. Not to mention, she was new.

The woman who sat in the chair opposite my desk in a book-lined office was one of the most promising writers in our creative department. The problem was, she was late on her first deadline. Really late.

I took a deep breath.

“I gave you an extra week. Help me understand why I don’t have that article yet,” I said.

She shrugged and cracked a smile. I waited for an answer, but nothing.

Then I said, “Eh, yeah. So, about that deadline?”

She looked down at her hands, then looked at me in the eyes, the smile gone.

“You know how it is. The inspiration just hasn’t hit yet.”

I nodded and fidgeted with a hangnail.

“Actually … I don’t know how it is.”

That’s when her lower lip began to tremble and her eyelids started blinking rapidly.

Common creativity myths

“The inspiration just hasn’t hit yet” is one among a long line of myths about creativity. Here are four more:

  • You are born with it.
  • You have to be right-brained.
  • It falls into your lap.
  • You’ve got to be a little mad.

Perhaps you’ve run into some of them. Perhaps you’ve even fallen for some, too.

But these aren’t just myths. They are also excuses.

They are excuses we use to avoid doing the work because we fear rejection, criticism, and failure.

I get it. I’m also an odd mix of roughneck and delicate soul.

I remember thinking to myself in an introductory-level college poetry class that no one dare criticize my work. Of course, I had no shortage of harsh comments for my fellow poets.

Call it overcompensation for a deep insecurity. Grossly exalted view of self. A freaked out perfectionist. Whatever the source, it was crippling my creativity.

I eventually learned my lesson. Creativity comes at a price.

But what exactly do we refer to when we talk about creativity?

Creativity explained — by science!

Michael Grybko, neuroscience research scientist and engineer from the Department of Psychology at the University of Washington, is pals with Kelton Reid, Rainmaker Digital’s VP of Multimedia Production and host of The Writer Files podcast. Michael’s been on Kelton’s show a number of times.

Naturally, the episode I want to focus on now is about creativity. So, Mr. Grybko, what is creativity?

“In science, we define ‘creativity’ as an idea that is novel, good, and useful. It’s a little broader than the Oxford Dictionary’s definition, where it’s just the ability to create, because that doesn’t really say much. You can create something and it’s not very useful or it just won’t work well.”

Did you get that? According to Mr. Grybko, creativity is “an idea that is novel, good, and useful.” Fair enough. But Michael’s not done.

“Pooling from this wealth of knowledge we store in our brains and making connections between different ideas, we have to solve a new problem, or create, write a new novel — that’s what science looks at when we study ‘creativity.’ Just to drive home the point, this is very much a function of the brain. There’s no need to invoke all that folklore into this. It’s our brains doing what they do.”

“It’s our brains doing what they do.” I love scientists! They spoil all of our mystical fun. (Just kidding.)

Anyone can be creative, not just a privileged few

Mr. Grybko is simply explaining that anyone can be creative. Not just a privileged few.

No more excuses, Class.

This got me thinking: How would non-scientists respond to this question? What about a punk rocker? What would he say about creativity?

What about a popular non-fiction author? A digital entrepreneur? A marketing dissident?

Fortunately for you, we have answers!

The Writer Files (which started as a regular column on Copyblogger) has gathered thought-provoking responses to the question, “What is creativity?”

20 more original definitions of creativity

You can read the full interviews by clicking on each person’s name. And don’t forget to download the free poster at the end of this post.

Enjoy!

“Seeing the intersection of seemingly unrelated topics and combining them into something new.” – Brian Clark

“Starting with nothing and ending up with something. Interpreting something you saw or experienced and processing it so it comes out different than how it went in.” – Henry Rollins

“Building universes out of nothing.” – Danny Sullivan

“Tapping into your soul and your intuition and allowing them to guide what you make.” – Bernadette Jiwa

“Giving the world something it didn’t know it was missing.” – Daniel Pink

“Going to unexpected places.” – Shane Snow

“Living in possibility and abundance rather than limitation and scarcity.” – CJ Lyons

“To me, creativity is seeing and communicating ideas in ways that are unique, compelling, and unexpected.” – Lee Odden

“One part inspiration, one part motivation.” – Ann Handley

“Creativity (n): a word people use when they want to sound smart talking about a really abstract subject. Me? I prefer to avoid abstractions.” – Jon Morrow

“The strange partnership between a human being’s labor and the mystery of inspiration.” – Elizabeth Gilbert

“Seeing something that doesn’t exist and then making it so.” – Hugh Howey

“The ability to connect the seemingly unconnected and meld existing knowledge into new insight about some element of how the world works. That’s practical creativity. Then there’s moral creativity: to apply that skill towards some kind of wisdom on how the world ought to work.” – Maria Popova

“Just making something. It might be something crummy or awkward or not ready for prime time. If you make something, you are creative.” – Sonia Simone

“Taking what’s in front of you and everybody else and making something new out of it.” – Austin Kleon

“Creativity brings good things in the world that otherwise would not exist. It’s a noble act of pushing back darkness and giving hope to despair.” – Jeff Goins

“Creativity is expressing your ideas in a full-contact, full-color way. It is using as many senses as possible to express an idea. It is the zone from which great, useful things are created.” – Pam Slim

“Seeing patterns that others don’t and effectively communicating them.” – David Meerman Scott

“Copying smarter.” – Lisa Barone

“This might not work.” – Seth Godin

Interesting responses, right? Lots of fun. But we aren’t finished yet …

Get the “What Is Creativity?” poster

copyblogger-what-is-creativity-posterWe created a two-page poster with all the responses that you can download (922 KB), print, and hang near your desk for inspiration.

Before you go, don’t forget to answer the question, “What is creativity?” Drop us your thoughts in the comments section below. We would love to hear your answer.

Here’s the cool thing: If we get a wide variety of answers with different points of view, we’ll take them and create another blog post and poster. So, let us know what you think.copyblogger-what-is-creativity-poster-2

P.S. Remember the timid writer in the introduction of this article? The one on the verge of a meltdown over a missed deadline?

Yeah, there was some major weeping and gnashing of teeth that day, but she got the picture and finally turned in the late assignment.

More importantly, she continued to respond well to my critical confrontations, eventually becoming a prized writer — what I call a “pit bull on paper.” I’m very proud of her!

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How Neuroscientist Michael Grybko Defines Creativity

neuroscientist-michael-grybko

Have you ever wondered how prolific writers summon vast stores of creativity without seemingly breaking a sweat?

The Writer Files host, Kelton Reid, would like to introduce you to a guest segment where he enlists the help of a neuroscientist to give us a tour of The Writer’s Brain.

He has invited research scientist Michael Grybko — of the Department of Psychology at the University of Washington — to help him define creativity from a scientific standpoint.

He will help us pinpoint where exactly in the brain creative ideas come from, decide if you can teach an old writer new tricks, and test the theory that writers’ brains are similar to professional athletes.

In this 22-minute file, host Kelton Reid and Michael Grybko discuss:

  • How science is expanding our definition of creativity
  • Why memory plays such a big part in writing
  • Why you shouldn’t take your typing skills for granted
  • Where creative ideas come from
  • Can you teach an old writer new tricks?
  • Why staying curious is so important to creativity
  • Are prolific writers like pro athletes?
  • Why “write what you know” is good advice

Click Here to Listen to

The Writer Files on iTunes

Click Here to Listen on Rainmaker.FM

About the author

Rainmaker.FM

Rainmaker.FM is the premier digital marketing and sales podcast network. Get on-demand business advice from experts, whenever and wherever you want it.

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6 Beautiful Ways Artificial Constraints Can Improve Your Creativity and Life

how to use limitations to boost your creativity

Like accumulating capital, hard work has its own momentum. If you want to master digital media, then produce it often.

Maria Popova, the woman behind Brain Pickings, publishes three substantial blog posts every weekday, typically about substantial books she reads. Each post is an elegant display of her ornate knowledge and polished creativity.

And when I was asked to host a show for our digital marketing podcast network, I immediately jumped on the opportunity. Here was a chance to organize my work, tackle a new challenge, and consistently produce a new type of digital media.

Yet — I was warned — it was essential I dismissed any optimistic notions about the quality of my show.

During a kick-off call with the rest of the Rainmaker.FM podcasters, Robert Bruce, our overlord, said, “Your first 100 shows will be crap.”

It was meant to encourage us.

Of course, my first thoughts were, “I want to reach that 100 as soon as possible. I don’t want my show to be crap.”

And the best way to do that? Produce a short, daily show.

I did the math, and I knew I would reach 100 shows (four days a week equals 16 shows a month) in 6.25 months. If I’d gone the weekly route, reaching 100 shows would take me two years.

I can’t wait that long.

But with this aggressive schedule, I had my work cut out for me. Would I pull it off or be buried beneath the workload?

There was also another potential risk I was more worried about, though: being shipwrecked by perfectionism.

How I avoid being shipwrecked by perfectionism

Driven by a fear of failure, making mistakes, and not being the best, the perfectionist in me sets unreasonably high standards, and then slaves away to reach them. Often at the cost of everything around me.

This can lead to a vicious cycle of frustration when those standards aren’t met. Not to mention, exhausting my resources to the point of diminishing returns.

So, here’s how I decided to avoid that trap. To deliver four, short monologues each week, I would need to maintain a strict schedule.

  • On Wednesdays, from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., I write four scripts.
  • On Fridays, from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., I refine the scripts, rehearse, and record the shows.
  • On Mondays, from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., I submit the shows (with a short blog I write for each show) to our production team.

That’s roughly 12 hours a week, or three hours per show. For the most part I honor those boundaries, even though they are artificial.

See, on top of Rough Draft, I still have to write a weekly article for Copyblogger, research and record The Lede with Jerod Morris, and carry out many other behind-the-curtains responsibilities.

In other words, I can’t get hung up on one episode, so I need artificial constraints to help guide my workflow. Plus, there are six other beautiful advantages to setting these sorts of boundaries.

Let me show you.

1. They help you avoid burnout

Artificial constraints keep perfectionism from eating away at you, so you avoid hitting the wall.

I hate hitting the wall.

I hate that feeling of not wanting to get out of bed — of a sore mouth from grinding your teeth in your sleep. I hate snapping at those around me for the smallest indiscretion.

So, in my situation, when 12:00 p.m. rolls around, I have to start wrapping up my podcast work. I simply work on each episode until it’s good enough, and then ship.

Of course, I could have refused to host a show, but I felt I could manage the workload. But this does mean I have to say “no” to other things. That keeps my life in balance and maintains the joy of the effort. Which is a beautiful thing.

By the way, think you are close to a work meltdown? Take this 45-question quiz to find out.

2. They allow you to get enough rest

Some writers claim to work every day of the week. Including holidays. I can’t do that.

As I mentioned on Kelton Reid’s podcast, The Writer Files, I typically don’t write on the weekends. I need that sabbatical, that fallow period, to rest my mind and let it wander because there is a limit to what the conscious mind can process.

The thing is, this is often when I solve some of my knottiest problems. The solutions come when my mind is not engaged in mental work, but distracted by physical play, manual labor, or long runs.

The same effect can happen while you’re working and simply get up to use the restroom, get a snack, or pick up your mail.

3. They apply pressure to perform

On the other side of the coin, artificial constraints will encourage you to get the work done. And science tells us that those constraints will actually make you more creative.

As Brooklyn-based designer Damien Correll said, “Constraints usually make me think in a different way than I would maybe naturally think.” One artificial constraint he imposes on projects is limiting himself to one particular color on the palette.

4. They give you a chance to forgive yourself

I listen to one episode of my show at least four times — after it is published. Not because I’m egotistical, but because I’m evaluating my work. I’m listening for mistakes.

For instance, about a week ago I went back and listened to all the episodes I have published so far, and I discovered something horrifying: I kept saying the word “right.” As in, “This is a podcast, right? One that you listen to, right?”

So I put a sticky note on my laptop with the word “right” crossed out.

I can’t go back and change those past episodes, but when I come across a mistake, I can: groan, make a note to correct it, shrug, and move on. Imperfection is okay.

My guiding principle is, “Not perfection of the parts, but perfection of the whole.” One episode will not define me. Rather, the body of work will.

So, forgive yourself, note how you can improve next time, and move on. There is much work to be done.

5. They present an opportunity for you to redeem yourself

In addition, artificial constraints give you the chance to redeem yourself.

As I mentioned above, I’ve listened to a half-dozen episodes of my show thinking, “That sucks.” But instead of allowing the perfectionistic pessimist in me to feel like a failure, I say, “As long as you are hosting this show, each episode is a second chance at doing it better. Another chance at the plate.”

And because my show runs four days a week, I have four opportunities each week. And of course, more opportunities for redemption provide more chances to improve.

6. They build momentum

At first, my aggressive schedule was difficult. I was all over the place. But over time, and with momentum, the execution became easy as I started to master the fundamentals.

This reminds me of something Henry Rollins said in an interview with Brian Clark. Henry said that if you just keep at it, slowly loading more on your shoulders over time, one day you look up and realize you actually can work an 18-hour day.

Not that 18-hour days should be routine, but it can be done. You are capable of more than you once thought. I think that’s a beautiful lesson to learn.

And finally, let me close with this: When you have that kind of momentum, the ideas accumulate, too.

In fact, at times, you almost wish the ideas would stop because you just don’t have enough time. But I would rather have more ideas than less. Wouldn’t you?

Over to you …

So, how have you used artificial constraints to improve your creativity and life?

Let’s discuss on LinkedIn!

About the author

Demian Farnworth

Demian Farnworth is Copyblogger Media’s Chief Content Writer. Follow him on Twitter or The Copybot. In the meantime, subscribe to his podcast: Rough Draft

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