Would you've been excited to see a movie called "Spaceman from Pluto" or identified with a young heroine named "Nan Nelson" or even considered picking up a book titled "Trimalchio in West Egg." Well, some of you have, under their original titles, "Back to the Future," "Nancy Drew" and "The Great Gatsby" respectively. Why the change? Simply put, I believe the artists were flexing their creativity.
It's referred to by many names; The Holy Grail, In the Zone, Achieving Liftoff, etc. It's when you absolutely know that all your creative efforts have successfully pulled together to achieve a "oneness" and hit the targeted goal. Yet, the process of repeatedly hitting that targeted goal continues to remain elusive and befuddles even the most persistent of us. Speaking from a creative perspective, knowing how and when you've hit upon that "holy grail" remains one of the most frustrating elements of marketing and creating content for your marketing pieces. To find us a solution, let's shine some light on the creative process.
Examining the Creative Process
In olden times B.C. (Before Computer), most creative processes were linear. That is, we'd start at the beginning, and finish at the end. Veering off on a tangent to experiment wasn't an option most of the time due to strict deadlines. Flash forward to today and we find ourselves with a (sometimes overwhelming) host of tools to allow even the most left-brained of us to go "full creative."
In examining the creative process, we all know that no two people will approach creating something in the same way. There may be similarities, or proven approaches, but our human nature compels us to push the boundaries of what's been established and explore other possibilities. If we didn't, do you really think we'd have the current technologically advanced society that we have today?
Even though we vary from person to person, the creative process almost always begins with some inspirational thought, comment or situation that causes someone to turn their head to the side and think, "Well, what if we did it this way?" At this point in the project, we have glimpses of a potential end result, but the roadmap for getting there is still folded up and in the glove compartment.
Embracing the Creative Process
Once we unfold our creative roadmap, what's the next step? Speaking again from a creative perspective, I offer three simple points to embrace when approaching your next project.
Start with something familiar
Once a project begins flowing, things usually move pretty steadily. It's getting past the starting point that seems to inhibit the creative process. As I believe everything to be created already exists and that the creative process involves a heavy dose of discovery, I begin by starting with something familiar. Artist Todd Siler coined the term metaphorming, which means "to see beyond the tried and true, to transform the meanings and uses of things and ideas by connecting and applying them in new contexts." With this mindset, I've gotten past many a sticky starting point and quickly advanced into the thick of a project. With deadlines looming, time is a luxury not to be wasted.
Surround yourself with inspiration
My background is in music, specifically drums and percussion, so I tap. No, I mean I TAP...A LOT. Ask my wife and she'd agree. Yet, she realizes my "desktop drumming" is a part of my creative process. In fact, if I'm not creating music, it still plays a huge part in my being creative in other areas. Whether writing an article such as this one, designing a marketing graphic, or shooting and editing a video, music surrounds me and provides inspiration upon which to draw. Music may not be your inspiration, and it's not my only influence, but I encourage everyone to find their muse.
Think in a non-linear fashion
In the past, I'd have a hard time with this one, as I'd envision the end one way, but arrive at one much different. The creative process works best when restraints are lifted, so I had to learn to be flexible. With a project, I now envision multiple endings, or versions. This gives me options when the inevitable roadblock appears. With digital media and the tools available to create, it's so much easier to think non-linear, jump over a roadblock and move to and work on another aspect within a project, even to the point of veering off to experiment (which I encourage).
These are but three suggestions to consider when creating your work of art, but let me throw in one more element; one we now have access to that can potentially benefit us in the creative process; instant feedback.
Analyzing the Results of the Creative Process
The Internet provides businesses, organizations and artists a platform upon which to speak their message. The platform also provides a targeted audience ways to instantaneously answer that message. At any point in the creative process, you can receive feedback. Whether it's receiving comments on a blog article, reaching subscribers with your newsletter, having a video go viral or fans "liking" your Facebook page, analytical data from these marketing outlets provides some insight about the effectiveness of your creative output.
From a marketing perspective, web analytics has become a blossoming industry that began roughly around the 1990s as owners of web servers realized log files could be read by a program to provide data on the popularity of the website. Over the years, individual elements within a website began to be tracked. Currently, we are now at a point where almost any interaction can be tracked, cataloged and referenced for later use.
Using this data, best practices and guidelines have been developed and established for marketers to draw upon in creating online campaigns to be more effective. Though most of us prefer our creativity to be free and unrestrained, sometimes confinement propels us in a brand new direction. Whether that direction will prove fruitful requires a leap of faith and the willingness to pursue it. As creativity relies heavily on a certain mindset, one person's confinement is another person's liberation.
Should data influence a creative project's direction? It may have in the film and literary examples mentioned at the beginning of this article. It's a tough question to answer, as the very nature of creativity bristles at conformity. Yet in marketing, data provides valuable feedback on which messages work and which don't. So, a balance must be achieved. In fairness, I will leave it to you, the artist, marketer or business owner to determine an answer to that question.
Content marketing and the tools to create continue to evolve. We're now to the point where virtually anyone can be a content producer. Any business with a presence online, whether through a website, Facebook page, Twitter account, or YouTube channel knows the importance of content. Search engines need it and consumers crave it. Look to the familiar, find your inspiration and get creative with your content marketing.
About the author Brian Mell is the award winning Assistant Marketing Manager at BannerView.com. You can find him on Google+, managing BannerView's Twitter profile, and producing videos for the company's YouTube channel.