The ad man guide to firing up your creativity


You’ve been working like a Duracell bunny all week on five different ad campaigns. Your Art Director has made your concepts look like bad expressionism and your Creative Director is questioning your copywriting talents with phrases like “did you go out drinking last night?” and “Maybe it was cool in the Eighties”. When the weekend arrives it feels like you’ve jumped aboard a lifeboat.

For the next forty-eight hours, you want to forget work and write some fiction, but your brain is mush and your enthusiasm has done a runner. What do you do? It’s a tough one, but one great thing about working in advertising is that you have to hit deadlines. And to hit deadlines you need to fire up your muse. Here are five foolproof techniques, which I’ve used in the last decade to make my clients happy.

 1. Put a tiger in your tank

If you’re tanked up on endorphins, it’s a lot easier to face that blank screen. Running gets me high and I’m not the only one who thinks exercise works wonders. A 2013 study published in the Journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience noted that regular exercise seems to be “associated with improved divergent and convergent thinking, which are considered the two components of creative thinking … ”.  So, what are you waiting for? Get writing fit! 

2. Between love and madness lies obsession

Read obsessively something you love or are mad about. Lying in bed with an a fantastic novel requires no effort at all and, after a couple of hours, you might find you have an overwhelming urge to emulate the author with some great words of your own. As Stephen King puts it, “The real importance of reading is that it creates an ease and intimacy with the process of writing; one comes to the country with one’s papers and identification pretty much in order. Constant reading will pull you into a place (a mindset, if you like the phrase) where you can write eagerly and without self-consciousness.”

3. Think different.

If you normally write on a computer, write on a pad. If you normally write in pen, write in pencil. If you normally write at a desk, write in a pub or in bed or in the bath. If you think about writing differently, it becomes something new.

 4. FCUK

Surprise, surprise, Freud had lots to say about sexuality and creativity. And he’s not the only one. According to the author, Deepak Chopra: “Creativity is ultimately sexual” while psychologists at Newcastle University found that professional artists and poets have about twice as many sexual partners as other people. The study also shows that the average number of sexual partners increased as creative output went up. So the more creative you are, the more sexual partners you should have. Although, I don’t suggest doing both things at once…unless you’re in a very understanding relationship.

5. Just do it

No matter how exhausted you are, the physical act of writing won’t work you into a sweat. If you are capable of tapping the keys, all you need is an incentive, either a carrot or a big stick. Dr. Wicked’s Write or Die definitely falls into the latter category. It’s not quite as dramatic as it sounds, but it still really, really hurts if you stop typing. And so what if the words are rubbish. In 1934, Hemingway confided to F. Scott Fitzgerald: “I write one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of shit.” But, as we all know, there can be money in muck, too.

Five tops tips that have saved my arse on many an occasion. Doubtless you’ve got your own little gems. If so, why not let us know down below.

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bestshortstorywritersJoel Willans is an award-winning copywriter, the founder of Ink Tank Media and author of the short story collection, SPELLBOUND: Stories of Women’s Magic over Men. His fiction has been broadcast on BBC radio and published in dozens of magazines and anthologies worldwide. You can find him on Twitter and Linkedin.

6 replies

  1. Agree with these but some are more important than others and most important is just do it. Nothing happens unless you get writing!

  2. I think it was Philip Roth who said, “The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.” One thing I love about blogging and copywriting, deadlines.

  3. Always protect the time and space in which you write. Guard it and make it a time nobody can hassle. I know easier said than done. Still very much worth the effort certainly for me

    Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you.

  4. Lol! Thanks for the advice and the laughs. Forgot what a wonderful ad that Apple one was and how utterly ridiculous French Connection are.

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