How to Keep Your Creative Juices Flowing
1. Collect and study ads in your field and many others. Create a "swipe file" of ads, sales letters, bookmarks of URLs of key Web sites, etc. Refer to them when your brain needs a jump start. You, too, can stand on the shoulders of creative giants in marketing and advertising.
2. Read books and publications in your field, as well as general publications and even a few kooky ones. I like the tabloids, women's and men's magazines, financial news, health publications, self-improvement and how-to stuff, exposé and scandal pubs and culture-sensitive magazines like Vanity Fair, Cosmopolitan and Rolling Stone.
3. Cruise the Internet. Start with a keyword search on search engines like Google, Yahoo or Overture.com. Input keywords related to your field and start cruising and bookmarking sites. Do this regularly, as there are new sites coming online every day.
4. Visit and participate in discussion forums and newsgroups in your areas of interest and a few that you have no interest in. It's amazing how one idea or approach in an odd field can be applied or modified to solve a challenge you face in your life and business.
5. Think outside the box, then bring those ideas into your existing box in order to enlarge it. Keep growing your box, and you'll grow, too.
6. Take a hike - literally, as in spending time in nature. Nature is one of my greatest teachers. Not sure how to explain it, but if you spend enough time in nature, I don't have to explain it to you. It clears my head, renews me and gives me fresh juice.
7. Maintain a sense of child-like wonder. That's where you kind of wander around all day going, "Wow, look at that! What's going on over there? What's that? How does that work? Why did that happen? Why are they doing that? What is the meaning of this? What is emerging or unfolding regarding this or that?" And so on. Get involved with life by asking focused questions.
8. Stay crazy. Most copywriters I know are at least a little eccentric (including me), and some of them are downright crazy compared to most people who have "real jobs" or wear suits all day. That's good. I guess it goes with being creative, but don't quote me on that or I'll go crazy.
9. Laugh, sing and fool around a lot. Humor, music and play somehow get the creative juices flowing and help disarm the left brain logic to let good ideas bubble up from the unconscious.
10. Get physical. Besides hiking, get fresh air, exercise, get a massage, dance, make love, move your body. It keeps your brain fresh, fed with oxygen and flowing with "happy chemicals." The mind-body connection, which was widely regarded as "New Age Woo-Woo" in the 1970s, is now much more widely accepted.
11. Cultivate a spiritual practice such as meditation, prayer, yoga, chanting, visiting the world's sacred sites and "power spots," studying sacred texts, feeding the poor, becoming a big brother or serving humanity in some form. It will expand your perspective and just might transform your life.
12. If nothing else, cultivate the practice of what I call "active compassion," which is simply finding what others need the most and giving it to them. This is a direct reflection of what smart marketers do, which is "find a need and fill it." As in life, so in business.
13. Immerse yourself in popular culture. Keep up on news, events, controversies, scandals, issues, people's problems, hopes and dreams. It makes you better able to love and serve the market you are selling to.
14. Get out of your ivory tower if you find yourself stuck in one for too long. Mix with people. All kinds of people. Ask them open-ended questions. Act like a journalist from time to time. Ask: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?
15. Spend at least one day a week not writing copy or thinking about business. It helps you stay fresh and avoid burnout.
16. Travel. Experience the "Otherness of Others." You will expand as a person and your creative capacities will expand at the same time.
17. Once in a while, break a habit or a routine and substitute a new one. Adopt a new way of doing something you normally do. Ultimately, be willing to change anything and everything about your life if you find it serves your "higher life purpose."
18. Keep your heart open, even if it hurts sometimes. If you close down in order to avoid pain, you'll stop the flow of joy as well. And your creative well will dry up, too. Let the joy and the pain in and out as quickly as possible. Don't hold on to anything for too long.