Creativity is vitally important to crafting effective copy and content. But mention the word “creative” around direct response copywriters, and their blood will begin to boil.
Outside of Madison Avenue, advertising is supposed to sell something, not win industry creative awards. Likewise, content should be useful and valuable to the reader, not an indulgent exercise in self expression.
Still, creativity is key when it comes to copy and content that works. While creativity for its own sake is a smart way to strengthen your lateral thinking skills and to align your work with what you love to do, it’s when you create something useful to others that you add value to the world.
Advertising legend David Ogilvy hated the word creative. In Confessions of an Advertising Man he wrote, “I tell new recruits that I will not allow them to use the word creative to describe the functions they are to perform in the agency.”
Ogilvy instead preferred the word remarkable. So now you know where ol’ what’s his name got his inspiration.
Creative Adaptation for Remarkable Content
Inspiration from other sources is what creativity is all about. It seems that many people believe creativity involves pulling a completely brand new idea out of thin air. In truth, creativity is an adaptive process that consists of looking at the same existing thing everyone else is and thinking about it differently.
Even Michelangelo believed that “the best of artists has no conception that the marble alone does not contain within itself.” He saw his sculptures within the mass of marble, and simply removed the parts that didn’t belong in order to “free the figures slumbering in the stone.”
Look in unlikely places for connections and angles that can enhance your content. If only one aspect of another subject area meets your needs, roll like Michelangelo and get rid of the parts that don’t belong.
Where Do We Find Inspiration?
So, where do you discover your own creative angles for content? Carl Ally, another advertising legend, offered this insight:
The creative person wants to be a know-it-all. He wants to know about all kinds of things—ancient history, nineteenth century mathematics, current manufacturing techniques, hog futures. Because he never knows when these ideas might come together to form a new idea. It may happen six minutes later, or six months, or six years. But he has faith that it will happen.
In other words, what you learn outside of your niche may well be more important than your substantive expertise. Read everything you can across diverse topic areas, and live life to the fullest for inspiration at every turn.
For solid tips in this area, read Tony Clark’s excellent 4-part Creative Adaptation series. You may just start seeing things differently than everyone else does when it comes to creating content.