We are creatures of habit. We take the same route to work, we order our coffee the same way. When I pop into my local Starbucks the barista doesn’t even have to ask me how I want my coffee. It’s comforting, easy and can really ding my creativity.
I was just on the speaking circuit – six weeks of criss-crossing the country speaking at all sorts of events from BlogPaws (pet blogger event) to BlogHer/Food (food blogger conference). One thing that really stood out for me is that a different market, mindset and exposure to ideas different than my own can really help to spark creativity and new ideas. Now, I’m sure that you aren’t living in a vacuum, certainly new ideas are coming at us all the time but usually we’re pretty tuned out to them. We see what we want to see, what interests us. The old slogan “think outside the box is fine” but if you stay in the same mind-set, thinking outside the box is a bit tough.
Being at these events I could have easily just sat up in my room and worked on my own projects, showed up for my session and then gone back to my room again but that’s not really a good way to use my time. Instead I would visit the vendor booths, sit in on sessions and really take in how these groups are different. What resonates with them and what they have yet to explore. For example at the foodie event no one really cared about Google Plus, sure they’d heard of it but they hadn’t really used it. I can totally understand that given how well food and food-porn does on Pinterest but the point it: it’s important to be exposed to new ways of thinking and new models of promoting because it can, in effect, help you become a better marketer. Another example of this is a romance conference I spoke at. Many of the authors were carting around these character trading cards, they’d profile a character on each of the cards and use them as promo materials or trade them with other authors. You might think that this kind of thing is great for fiction authors but non-fiction won’t really benefit from this idea. Well, think again. I thought this idea was so unique and then it hit me: create trading cards for my book, How to Sell Your Books By The Truckload on Amazon, and create different tips, one tip per card. I took these around to speaking events and people loved them.
Doing what you’ve always done – as long as it’s working – is certainly great. But consider an exercise once a month: do something totally out of market. Read a magazine you wouldn’t normally read, listen to a podcast or radio show that you normally wouldn’t or, if you can, go to an event that you would never have considered. For example I go to a lot of social media conferences and I’m amazed at how many authors never consider doing this. Why? They figure it doesn’t matter to them. The point is this: it all matters. Sometimes ideas come from the most unexpected places. Taking a different route to work, reading or exploring outside of your market, could really help to expand your creativity. I recall a line in the movie Working Girl where Melanie Griffith is super determined to rise up the corporate ladder, so much so that she reads everything she can get her hands on. At one point Sigourney Weaver who plays her evil boss says: “You read W Magazine?”
“Yes,” says Griffith’s character, “because you never know where the good ideas will come from.”
My point exactly.
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