By Kara Jensen
You are looking at a product of human creativity. That computer, the one you’re using right now, is one of the most recent pieces of creative innovation. We need creativity to both survive and progress in this world, so it is no surprise to find creativity in communication. When we communicate, we create, and if we can create the right message, we will reach larger audiences.
Working in communications means solving problems that don’t even exist yet. Professionals must think in new and unique ways—both of which require creativity. In the past, many have associated creativity with being “right-brained,” since this hemisphere is responsible for generating divergent thought. However, recent research has found that people use both hemispheres when thinking creatively: the right generates the “out of box” ideas, and the left analyzes and evaluates those ideas. With this circular pattern, new and exciting ideas are formed, many of which turn into tangible products—like your computer.
Cultivating creativity at home and in the workplace starts with a passion to persuade or reinforce an existing message. Follow these steps to get your creative juices flowing, and remember, once you start, the stream only gets stronger.
- Inspiration includes everything: if you find yourself stuck, get some new ingredients. Go to a new restaurant, listen to different types of music, or read a text you wouldn’t normally pick up. The more options you have in your recipe book, the more possibilities you have, so try something outside your comfort zone. You might be surprised; inspiration can come from anything.
- New experiences = new perspectives: when we meet new people or travel to new places, we build new connections in our brains. These connections can be important when creating unique messages. Reaching one’s audience starts with understanding the people within the selected group, so developing new relationships can give you a new lens and a significant advantage.
- Record, record, record: you never know when that creative spark will come, so keep a way to record these new ideas nearby. With today’s technological advances, this can be as simple as viewing an item you already have differently: now your cell phone is no longer just a phone; it’s your journal, your record-keeper, and a place to keep those hidden gems, so you never lose them.
- Be conscious of your environment: if you have a certain spot in your home where you tend to work, start there. But, if you find yourself sinking, all you have to do is swim to another island. This can be as simple as taking a walk outside, or as drastic as changing a wall color. The trick is to be conscious of what’s around you. If it’s not working, don’t force it. There will always be another island in the distance.
- Create with the door closed, edit with it open: a large part of developing something new is collaboration. People who take time to incorporate constructive criticism are usually more successful. So set your ego aside, because more heads are better than one when it comes to the editing process. Choose a small group of people you trust, and remember, you’re the one that ultimately decides, so all ideas are good ideas.
- Time to reflect: self reflection helps ground your thinking. Take time to keep a record of your developments over time, so that you can see your progress and your weaknesses. Working on your weaknesses starts with identification, so those who know where to improve tend to do better. Reflection is also a time to pat yourself on the back. Creating isn’t easy, so it’s important to recognize your talents because you have many.
- Inviting extreme ideas: the very essence of creativity is doing something new. Sometimes this pushes us outside the social standard of “normal.” Embrace these moments as reflections of your individuality, but keep your intended audience in mind. The trick is to find ways to intrigue your audience without pissing them off. After careful research, go for it, because many risks are rewarded.
- Set time limits: when developing something new, the editing process could take longer than the process of creation itself. Setting realistic time limits will ensure that your hard work will pay off. Use your knowledge of past projects to sketch out a rough schedule. Do your best to keep to your schedule, but also realize it may change along the way. Fuzzy boundaries can help during the creation process, but deadlines should stay. Set your individual deadline a few days early to ensure your best work.
- Focus on passion, not money: if your incentive is purely monetary, you’re doing yourself an injustice. Creating is difficult, so you need the passion to pursue your effort. If money is all you’re after, you won’t take the risks needed to really make an impact. While working, keep this in mind: make money to live; don’t live to make money. We are liable to miss the best in life if we don’t know how to live. A creative life is a happy one, so kick back and enjoy the ride.
Let’s hear from you. What advice do you have to feed the creative spirit in communication? Do you agree that we should make money to live, not live to make money? What do you think of the woman artist in our graphic? Is she a stereotype or would Maya Angelou wonder why her quote is used in this mash-up?
Kara Jensen teaches remedial English and reading courses at Georgia Military College in Warner Robins, Georgia. In 2009, she earned her bachelor’s degrees, a B.A. in English and a B.S.Ed. in English Education. In 2010, she graduated with her M.Ed. in secondary English Education. Kara is currently working on a M.A. in Communications through Johns Hopkins University. In 2013, Kara Jensen won Georgia Military College’s Educator of the Year Award. On her days off, she enjoys walking her chocolate Labrador, Summerbun, reading, writing, and traveling. You can contact Kara at firstname.lastname@example.org or view her LinkedIn page.