I have lots of books at home that theorize about creative thinking and provide helpful tips and techniques to help us unlock the next award-winning nugget of creativity. Some of them are actually very good and provide useful and practical exercises to help kick start and channel our thoughts.
Among the many suggestions that I have read about and attempted before include: mind-mapping, speed thinking, brainstorming, daydreaming, distraction, getting blind drunk, oblique strategy cards and something introduced to me by a creative director at a large consumer agency called ‘isolation creation’ that basically involves locking yourself away on your own until you crack the brief.
The reality is that any one of these methods can be effective and it simply comes down to whatever works best for you. It also goes without saying that they will only work if your brain has received the right input and processed it in order to stimulate it into delivering great creative output.
Many years ago, when I first started in this industry, I was chatting to a freelance art director and I asked him how he was able to think in the way he did and come up with these amazing conceptual thoughts. He inhaled a full lungful of his of Capstan Full Strength (I am old enough to remember when you could still smoke your head off in the office) and looked out of the window thoughtfully before snorting the smoke back out through his nostrils and replying, “I’m a sponge,” before turning back to his magic markers and letraset sheets.
Now, he certainly didn’t look much like a sponge to me except for having lots of holes in his jumper and yellow fingers, but he had made a good point and one that has stuck with me ever since.
As a creative, it’s so important to be inquisitive and curious about the world around us because you never know what is going to influence your next big idea and when that thought is going to hit you. It’s also something of a cliché but I am a great believer in the fact that our subconscious is a powerful creative problem solver, constantly slaving away in the background whilst we busy ourselves with other mundane tasks and even when we are gently snoring away in our beds.
As an experiment to prove this theory to myself, I recently started to keep a scrap of paper and a pen beside the bed to capture those middle-of-the-night eureka moments that always seem to slip from our grasp when we wake.
Sure enough, one night I awoke at some unearthly hour with a brilliant idea.
Quietly, I leant over and hastily scribbled my idea on the scrap of paper and then fell back into the kind of contented deep sleep that only a man who has just changed the face of healthcare communications is able to.
When my alarm eventually beeped, I leapt from the covers and gambolled about the bedroom like a new born lamb, excited at the thought of reading my nocturnal revelation.
I sat down on the bed and carefully picked it up.
My friends, what you see in the picture below is the actual note.
Feel free to share these words of wisdom.
And if you can read them and have any idea of their meaning, please let me know because I’m damned if I do.
I think I need to go back to my books…