Here are Some Things to Keep in Mind When Doing Creative Work.

by Chris Ammons

They aren’t really rules per se, more like guiding principles that can help increase creativity and lead to a better final product.​

Embrace Limitations

Limitations are their own form of freedom. Once you accept them and understand the sandbox you’re playing in, it’s easier to have good ideas and make successful work. If you spend all your time trying to make things that are outside of those parameters, it will never get sold and you’ll only get frustrated.

Be Prolific

Do an initial exploration of MANY, MANY, MANY, quick, rough, ideas and pieces of ideas. These are the seeds you can grow good ideas from.

Good Ideas Can Come From Anywhere

They don’t have to be “yours”. But just because someone gives you an idea, that doesn’t mean you have to take it.

“Never turn down a good idea but never take a bad idea.”
- David Lynch

Allow Time To Go Deep With Ideas

It’s easy to rely on exercises & “techniques”, which are great for getting things started, but when it comes to creativity, these methods only scratch the surface. Ideas need to be kicked around, played with, broken apart, and put back together again. That’s when they become strong, ownable, memorable and above all, good.

Get To The Heart Of The Idea (Simplify, Simplify, Simplify)

It’s easy to get caught up in style, or the “window dressing”, but that stuff is just fluff. If we have a strong core idea, and we understand and honor it, all the other stylistic elements come out of it. This makes it a more cohesive and stronger piece of work than if we allow more superficial things to do the heavy lifting.

Stop Thinking

Creative work is not thinking work. The thinking work comes before the creative work. The thinking work sets the stage for the creative work. The thinking work needs to be done, the creative team needs to absorb and understand the thinking work, internalize it, and then start making. Creative work is about DOING, and you can’t really think and do at the same time.
(If creative doesn’t work on a gut level, it doesn’t matter how smart, strategic, or well thought out it is.)

Creativity Is About Making Choices

Don’t be afraid to make a decision. And remember: what is eliminated is just as important as what’s there.

In the Particular Lies the Universal

This is an idea I learned from Charles Dickens and James Victore: If I do a good job describing my village, I do a good job describing the world. If I paint a clear picture of a particular situation, people can connect to that and feel more invested in it. Specificity and detail are what creates emotional resonance.

Every Project Is An Experiment

Try something new. If it doesn’t work here, you can always try it somewhere else. Compared to many other types of work, the stakes really are not very high.

“Creativity is one of the few human endeavors where you can crash your plane and still walk away from it.” 
— David Bowie

Several of these ideas have their origins in Creative Quest by Questlove, Catching the Big Fish by David Lynch and the teachings of James Victore.

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