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Where to Start?

Where to Start?

There are a myriad of ways to approach a creative assignment or challenge. Some people have their tried and true favorites. Others, (myself included) are always adding new ideas or techniques to our quiver of “getting started” options for developing new concepts. Here are some of the more recent ones I have tried. Hopefully, there might be one below to help you get started in a pinch or on a down day when the creative juices don’t seem to be floating.

  1. Never In A Million Years – Write a deliberately bad concept or formulaic creative approach that you would never actually submit. But give it all you’ve got to make sure it is well-rounded and fully thought out. Once it is finished (or in a reasonably rough form), take out your critique fangs and have at it. Tear it apart, give it your best ridicule, and then develop a list of alternate approaches to give you some worthwhile ammo to develop a much stronger concept or creative treatment. Spending 30-minutes on something you would never suggest or actually do could end up generating the spark of an idea you need to dive right in and develop a whopper of a good idea.
  2. Alternate Character Wish – Develop a realistic character who is far from being anything like yourself. They can be smack in the client’s target demographic or a more fanciful, but practical, creation. First, write up a short profile of who they are, what they have experienced so far in life, and what makes them tick. Then make up a list of likes/dislikes to further hone their persona and give you some boundaries to play within. Finally, write a short first person narrative (in their voice) describing their experience encountering, viewing, or participating in the task you are stuck on/stuck with developing. It can be an idealized, optimal perspective of something they found immensely enjoyable or it could be a snarky diatribe of an experience that fell way short of their expectations. Either way, viewing your own creative challenge through the lens/perspective of someone else can illuminate new possibilities and creative directions that you had not considered.
  3. Scaffolding the Do’s and Don’ts – A more mechanical approach I discovered recently is to build a list of do’s and don’ts around the assignment or project task you have in front of you but no ideas yet for how to tackle creatively. Once you have fleshed out a good list of both, step back and look at the each side separately, first the do’s and then the don’ts. What board themes or conceptual foundations do you see? Begin to organize the individual items on your lists under these larger tenets about the desired outcome of this creative task. Finally, write a short 3-4 sentence blurb for each core foundation or broad theme that explains its importance, rationale, and impact. After dissecting the task in this manner, step back and re-read these narrative guidelines for the script, show, experience, or activity you are tasked with creating and use them as a focal point for your creative juices.

Try one of these next time you are staring at a blank screen or page with no idea how to tackle your creative challenge. Better yet, share an alternate approach that works for you that I can give a try next time!




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Duncan has 20+ years experience designing and producing digital media, signature events, and destination experiences for clients.