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What is Your Creative Muse?

John Doherty —  April 22, 2011
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I have recently been reading a book called “Escape From Cubicle Nation” by Pamela Slim (and forward by Guy Kawasaki). Pamela was a corporate consultant for years, and eventually realized that her passion lay with helping those trapped in “cubicle nation” rediscover their creative side and, if their idea was good enough, providing actionable tips for leaving the office and becoming a thriving entrepreneur.

I’m not going to talk about entrepreneurship here. I am going to talk about Pamela’s ideas for opening the “creative floodgates” as she calls them on page 50 of the book.

What are creative floodgates?

No matter who you are (and especially linkbuilders, you should listen up), you get tired eventually. We all have bad and tired days (mine are called “before 10am everyday”), but we cannot let those stop us from being productive for our bosses and/or clients.

Creative floodgates are the doors to our creative sides that must be re-opened from time to time. Sometimes they are wide open naturally and traffic is flowing smoothly. Sometimes, however, they are jammed up and bottlenecked. Something needs to be done to get traffic flowing again. So how do you remove the metaphorical tollbooth (the one on I-76 outside of Philadelphia is the one I have in mind specifically…) that is jamming up your creative floodgates?

Pamela’s Ideas

Pamela has a few actionable tips for strategies to take to open up your creative floodgates each day.

  • Morning Pages: Pamela suggests writing 3 pages every morning when you wake up. Now, this sounds horrible to me, as I hate mornings (read the 10am comment above) and cannot function without coffee, but I bet it would work. I may integrate this into my life.
  • Walk through a new part of town: We all have our set routines and ways we walk or drive to work, Pamela says. Break out of those. Walk home a new way from lunch and look at the different buildings. Pay attention to the smells. Recharge.
  • Play hot-warm-cold at an art museum: Pamela suggests going to an art museum/gallery and going to only the photos that really grab you and feel hot to your senses. Let them revive you. (This is a great suggestion if you live in a city.)
  • Document anything interesting with your camera: Take your camera and go on a short photo walk. If the way a leaf sits on a fence grabs you, take a photo. See someone with pink hair? Grab a photo. Don’t worry about the quality, worry about the creativity and going with your feelings.
  • Surf the Internet using tools like StumbleUpon: Use something like StumbleUpon (yes, there are uses other than linkbuilding :-)) to discover new interesting websites.
  • Get physical: Go for a brisk walk. Do some yoga. Stretch your legs. Take a dance class. Some of these must happen outside of work, but the point is to build creative activity into your lifestyle.

A few of my own

  • Edit photos: I have taken a lot of lifestyle photos in my travels. Sometimes I have to sit back at my desk, open up my iPad, and edit a few photos. I don’t feel bad about it, because it is a mental break that helps me be more productive. I just make sure not to take too much time, but I take enough to refresh my brain.
  • Listen to music: This one is obvious, but it’s worth listing. I listen to Pandora or TheSixtyOne. I also here Spotify is good (thanks Gianluca!) In Pandora you can set up custom stations of types of music (I have everything from Kanye to Metallica), and on TheSixtyOne I like setting the playlist to a certain mood (usually Happy or Rocky for me). It works.
  • Ping pong: My current workplace has a ping pong table. Sometimes when I am really backed up in the creativity department, I’ll challenge a coworker to a game. 15 minutes later, after I’ve demolished them, it’s back to work and my brain is running free.

Apply this to SEO

SEO is a delightfully creatively technical field, I find. Some days you have your creative marketing hat on, other days you have your data hat on. Both require creativity. How will you bolster yours in order to be better at your job?

We always talk about “automating” in the SEO sphere. I’m not talking down on that at all, but if that is our full picture, it is reductionistic. We must engage all of our being (mind, body, feelings) into our work to be truly great, I think.

A Few Cool Tools

For the gadget-geek in all SEOs, there are a few cool things that we can do around the office to to keep our creativity going.

First, have a whiteboard near you. Have something to draw on. The SEER Interactive office has pillars that are chalkboards so that they can sketch out an idea when the impetus strikes. Here’s a picture (taken from their site):

Chalkboard Pillars

Maybe think about investing in a GeckoBoard, or some sort of statistic counter that will keep you motivated and excite you to implement your next project even more successfully.

gecko board

Screenshot from www.geckoboard.com

Rob Ousbey of Distilled tweeted today about these cool glass boards to draw on called Clarus Boards. Classy and gives you a place to sketch out ideas.

Share Your Creative Muse!

What keeps you creative in your SEO work? In your daily life? Share with us in the comments.

John Doherty

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I'm the Senior Marketing Manager of HotPads.com, based in San Francisco. Previous to Hotpads I worked at Distilled for 2 years as an online marketing consultant. In my spare time I shoot lifestyle photography, ski, rock climb, and update my Twitter and Google+ accounts.

3 responses to What is Your Creative Muse?

  1. Geckoboard is a good companion for a business. Getting use with it will keep an eye on what’s happening on your business.

    I am using this great free tool http://WebControlRoom.com which helps small businesses stay on track by providing a 1 page report with data from a number of their favourite sources (Mail Chimp, Analytics, Xero etc).

    • Great post. I’m going to have to check out that book…sounds intriguing.

      I find my muse is fickle…but more often than not, Earl Gray tea (twinings, only) and Sigur Ros usually do the trick.

  2. good ideas to inspire your muse…also do some quick expressive drawing or collage. create a vision board of your dreams, what inspires, plans..place it in viewing range..the subcoscious will soak it up…go outdoors daily or bring a part of it inside!