The ideas factory

A blank page, a keyboard, some fingers, and a brain, that’s about all we’ve got as copywriters. No impressive creative suites with multiple layers and variable-Inspiration in a lightbulbgradient drop shadows. No, it’s just us, words, and inspiration. And probably a good deal of fretting as deadlines loom.

So what do you do when you need to get down to writing something but it appears that inspiration didn’t get the invite? Well, as Peter De Vries said, “I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at nine o’clock every morning”.

Sitting around waiting for inspiration to strike means you could be waiting a very long time, especially if you’re at home with Netflix, a PlayStation, and Jeremy Kyle.

For me one of the biggest misconceptions is the idea that “inspiration comes knocking”. It doesn’t. It’s lurking around somewhere and you have to find it. It could be anywhere, in a book, under the fridge, maybe even in the dark recesses of your own mind, right between student loan repayments and personal pensions.

So what do you do when that ever-encroaching deadline creeps closer like some spectral lawnmower of time? Here are a couple of techniques I’ve found over the years that work for me.

One is to go anti-technology, it may feel like pulling a drip out of your own arm while the doctor’s not looking, but getting back to basics can often be the answer. With just a pencil, paper, earphones, and a hiding place, I like to see what’s rumbling around inside my brain.

I set myself a limit of about 15 minutes, that’s about all it takes for me to empty my brain onto the page. In that time I normally come up with something useable. After that it’s easy; you just need to write it, edit it, refine it, tweak it, decide it’s terrible and start all over again.

I have another technique that gets a bit more Jungian and involves delving into the human subconscious. That isn’t actually as difficult as it sounds, not since the human self-conscious has become an easily searchable, cross-indexed database of blogs and websites.

Whether you need to find something about flights to Mali, 1980s sci-fi, technological advances, or how to make Birmingham sound like a nice places to visit, there’ll be something there to spark your creativity.

Anything I find that I like the look of I use somewhere, or store away for a time of creative drought. I don’t see this as copying; as the famous quote goes, “stealing from one place is plagiarism, stealing from 100 places is inspiration”.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *