There are days, and then there are days. You know what I’m talking about. On some days, everything clicks. You’re a step ahead of yourself; your mind fills with questions but the answers come a moment later; your boss (or client) wants three creative concepts for the next marketing campaign, and five flood into your mind—and you haven’t even had that second cup of coffee!
Then there are those other days, when you just can’t push the rock up the hill; nothing clicks; everything is out of phase. You’re pulling your hair out wondering what has happened, when just yesterday you were on the ball. The good news is that in the digital age, there are plenty of tools and prompts to help you through those “days.”
Earlier, I wrote about Word Hippo, which helps me find the right word when words are reluctant to come to my aid. Here, let’s talk about three other creation-sparking tools that are easy to use.
1. Theasaurus.com: You’re writing and you’re in the ballpark, but the word you know is out there (or a better word you know must be out there) eludes you. This is a free and simple tool for finding the right word you know is there. Type in the word you’re reluctantly using and take it from there. Within a few minutes, you’ll have a better word and be on your way.
2. Mind maps: If you know me, you know my mind runs as fast as a New York minute--inputs and thoughts just rushing in and out. Yeah, not always pretty! The challenge can be harnessing those thoughts into something useful. If the thoughts are there, you know they are pieces of a puzzle, but we’re often unsure how the pieces go together. This is where mind-mapping comes to the rescue! Take a run through any number of free mind-mappers (like Coggle, Mindmaple or WiseMapping) and start capturing those random but incredibly creative thoughts. Once you capture them in the tool, you can then begin to build and connect them in ways that will yield stories or project recommendations or marketing campaigns.
3. Starbursting: This is a brainstorming technique rooted in traditional journalism: who, what, where, why, and how. Journalists are taught to ask and answer these questions in every story. But the questions are just as useful for our work in marketing and communications. Star bursting is about asking questions (and more questions) to help you and your team work through challenges like product naming/development, campaign creation, even press release creation. Take a core idea and build the four Ws and one H around it in a starburst (you can draw it on a sheet of paper with a good old-fashioned pen! What a concept!). Then start asking questions and writing them down. For more information (and to download a free template), check out this article.