We've all had those moments when you go to the well and there's just nothing useful in it. A wealthy client, sitting across from you with an expectant look on his face, waiting for the pearls of wisdom to drop from your lips, your PD sitting in her office, eyebrows raised, tapping her foot to the rhythm of the song playing softly on her tuner...and there you sit, drawing a big blank, zilch, nada, goose eggs. I've been there way too many times and always pray that I never go there again. But it happens. The question is why.
This really isn't about creativity because, pretty much anyone is or can be creative. Steve Jobs once said, "Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn't really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That's because they were able to connect experiences they've had and synthesize new things." I even did an entire video tutorial about creativity called "The Creative Well" you might want to review if you're in doubt about your own creativity.
So, what's the problem then? I'm a creative guy and yet there I sit, sweating bullets because I just can't seem to squeeze one worthwhile idea out of my pitiful little brain. The answer is simple. (The best ones always are.) Think back to that class on computers you took once, where your instructor talked about GIGO: Garbage In...Garbage Out. If you took the time to actually watch my tutorial (extra points), you'll remember how I told you to do an ungodly amount of reading, watching and doing every week so you can have common ground with your listeners. Well, here's a small addendum to that advice: make sure it's stuff your audience does. If all you do is watch and play sports, understand that sports is all you're putting in your well. If your PD is looking for an idea for a Bridal Fair promotion, what in your well is going to help? Not much unless the Bride wants her Bridesmaids to wear football jerseys. Oh my! There's a bit of creativity right there! I just took two disparate ideas and combined them to come up with a creative approach. However, chances are not good that idea will work.
Going back to the Steve Jobs quote, the operative phrase is, "...they were able to connect experiences they've had and synthesize new things." That is exactly where the spark of creativity happens. If you don't have two ideas that can combine to a suitable idea, your well is essentially empty and there you'll sit, listening to the clock ticking.
The key is to become a true Renaissance man or woman; a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas. Staying with our little scenario in your PD's office, if you're a single guy, I would guess there's a 1 in 10 chance that you've even attended a Bridal Fair. If you're a single woman, I'll put those odds at 1 in 3. (My numbers could be WAY wrong, but they sound about right.) Does that make the single guy who's never been bad? Absolutely not. He's just at a disadvantage when it comes to being creative.
Look, if you want to have a well deserved repuation for being creative, someone who can consistently pull the rabbit out of the hat or the well (in this case), you need to have an active, rich social agenda. You need to do something different, something unusual (for you), on a regular basis. Plan a weekly adventure, doing something you've never done before. Pick a day and just decide you're going to do something out of the ordinary. Go to a cartoon museum. Volunteer some time at a local food kitchen. Take a new way to get to work. Even something as simple as going to a wine tasting can open so many avenues. The best part is, every time you do one of these "out-of-the-ordinary" things, you'll stumble onto other ideas for things to do.
Here's one more idea. I wish I could claim authorship, but honestly it came from an old friend of mine, Brant Miller – long-time morning show host at WLS and TV Weather dude at NBC5 in Chicago. Brant and I worked together briefly in Washington, DC on WPGC-FM back in the Dark Ages. Like many in radio, he had done a bit of market-hopping early in his career. He explained to me that every time he came to a new market, he would purchase a really good map of the area and wallpaper the bathroom with it. Then he would carefully study part of it every time he'd...well, whenever he was in the 'library.' He would then make it a point to visit the area of the map he'd studied in real life, so he could get a feel for that neighborhood and know what he was talking about when he'd shout out somebody in Capitol Heights or wherever. Knowing local landmarks could be an invaluable tool for you coming up with new ideas. You'd get bonus points for just having the experience of seeing neighborhoods you might otherwise never see in your life, especially if you're in a big market. I've done this a bit myself and it has expanded my understanding of the 5 boroughs of New York City considerably. I probably would never have visited the New York Botanical Gardens in The Bronx, one of the most beautiful spots on the East Coast. Who knew?
So, why the "Renaissance Chick" title? A true Renaissance man would never call a woman a "chick." Think about it. Two ideas...ah never mind. You've got this.