Gather raw material for your creative project
The first of the five stages of the creative process is to forage, or stuff your brain with information and inspiration.
The better the information and inspiration, the more creative the result.
1. To be interesting, be interested.
So get out there and learn something.
“Every really good creative person … has always had two noticeable characteristics,” writes James Webb Young, the pre-Mad Men-era ad executive who invented the 5-step creative process and put it down in a book called A Technique for Producing Ideas.
“For it is with the advertising man as with the cow: no browsing, no milk.”
— James Webb Young, author of A Technique for Producing Ideas
“First, there was no subject under the sun in which he could not easily get interested — from, say, Egyptian burial customs to modern art. Every facet of life had fascination for him. Second, he was an extensive browser in all sorts of fields of information. For it is with the advertising man as with the cow: no browsing, no milk.”
So whether you’re creating an advertising campaign or a blog post, start with market research, interviews — even Google the details you’ll need for your project.
2. Don’t skip this step.
Maybe you hate research. Do it anyway.
“Gathering raw material … is such a terrible chore that we are constantly trying to dodge it,” Young wrote. “Instead of working systematically at the job of gathering raw material we sit around hoping for inspiration to strike us.”
That’s not the creative process. That’s procrastination.
You won’t come out of the incubation stage with an aha moment unless you go through this, the insight stage.
3. Get out of your own backyard.
The farther afield you seek inspiration, the bigger your ideas will be.
“Avoid creative incest. As with actual incest, the product of creative incest just keeps getting dumber and dumber and dumber with each generation.”
— Dan Kennedy, author of “No B.S.” marketing books
Beware the “but-that’s-not-like-our-project/company/style/industry/specialty” reflex. If you’re only willing to steal ideas from communications that are just like yours — say, the websites of Iowa insurance companies that specialize in agricultural coverage — your ideas will be as limited as your foraging.
Marketing guru Dan Kennedy calls that approach “creative incest.”
“As with actual incest,” he says, “the product of creative incest just keeps getting dumber and dumber and dumber with each generation.”
“Creativity is an import-export game,” writes Ronald S. Burt, a sociologist with the University of Chicago. “It is not a creation game.”
And the better material you import, the more creative your idea will be.