By: Kristi Spargo
Appearances can be deceiving. I may be a kid-toting, CR-V driving, Sperry-shoed Type A personality, but I’ve always wanted to be a hippie artist. Tapestries, lava lamps, tie dye and incense make me really happy. Back in college, I wanted to be the girl painting on the front lawn with the flower crown, baby doll tee and peasant skirt (yes, I went to college in the 90’s). Sometimes I wonder why I never made the leap; maybe it’s because I don’t have long flowy hair, but much more likely it’s because I don’t have a creative bone in my body.
Or so I thought. A year ago I eagerly accepted a position to once again work with Partners in Association Management, this time as a magazine editor/writer, but it didn’t come without some hesitation. I knew I could handle the editing, formatting and deadlines from my previous experience working here. Nothing makes me happier than proofing, inputting reminders into Outlook and creating organization and processes. Yet the idea of coming up with feature article ideas and cover design concepts was overwhelming. That type of work was for creative people, not me. As this year has progressed, however, I have learned that I can be creative; I just need to pair the task with my methodologies. Here are some tips that have helped the left and right side of my brain work together.
This lesson harkens back to fourth grade English and hasn’t steered me wrong yet. If I have been staring at a blank Word document for fifteen minutes and feel the panic ensuing over the encroaching article deadline, I just start somewhere. If it’s a letter, I typically write the date, address, salutation and signature. Sometimes I draft the first sentence of greeting and the last concluding sentence. If it’s an article I’ll write the title and the main objectives or questions I want to answer, leaving space in between. These small steps help organize an emerging thought pattern and words on a page settle the Type A anxieties. The spaces can then be filled in after some research.
The wildly creative use the internet and you should too. If I am trying to come up with an interesting concept for a big feature article, I will Google the key words and just start following the link cookie trail. I have gone off on some major hunts that have ended in squat. That’s ok though, it’s all about testing the different places that you can go and seeing what others have done that could inspire your own direction. I also utilize research to conquer one of my biggest fears, cover design concept. I either enter the key words into Google’s image feature or browse photo sites such as istockphoto or thinkstockphotos. These sites are a cornucopia of ideas and imagery that can even help inspire article copy. At some point in all of this research you will come across an idea that works.
Just Be Yourself, Man
When I picture a writer I think of someone leading the brainstorming session quickly bubbling over with awesome ideas. This is not me, but I realized that I’m still qualified to do the job. I just need time; time to create my outlines, research ideas, formulate a concrete direction and determine the best way to get there. Since implementing this “process” I have even discovered that the creative side of my brain, the side that’s been buried under grammar rules and strategically-snoozed Outlook reminders, is starting to percolate all on its own. New ideas are coming faster and in unexpected ways.
So the next time you think you can’t do something creative, light some incense (better done at home vs. the office), put on some Jack Johnson and figure out a way to make it work for you.