Creativity is SUCH a valuable skill for building our influence, recognition, and change-making capacity, and it’s not just for the reasons you might think, like coming up with content ideas for LinkedIn.
I define thought leadership as the consistent practice of tapping into our passion, lived experiences, and credibility as fuel to imagine and shape the future together, for the better. And creativity is the ability to create something real and tangible, just by using our imagination
Without creativity, we won’t be able to imagine a new, equitable, just future that actually works because we’re so entrenched and rooted in the ways things have always been done. We can’t imagine our way out. We may have been conditioned and socialized within the systems we live in today, but it’s creativity and our ability to dream up a new kind of future that can spark a just transition.
If you work on a problem you are deeply passionate about, it’s your creativity combined with your expertise that will call in a community ready to help you make shift happen.
So in this solo episode, I’m going to talk about how to work out your creativity muscle and keep it strong for the unique change you’re meant to call in.
Creativity comes from within, in terms of practices we can do for our own personal nourishment and wisdom dissemination, or content creation. It comes externally, from partnering with community to come up with new and innovative ways we wouldn’t have thought of on our own. And it also comes from being a part of nature and the world, where there’s so much inspiration to be had.
Highlights from the podcast episode:
Nurturing Your Inner Artist: Embrace Play to Rediscover Creativity
So, let’s start with our own personal creative practices. If you haven’t already worked through The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, it’s one of the best resources I’ve found to build up your creative muscle and nurture your inner artist. Because in many ways, you are an artist. There’s many exercises and concepts in the book, but the one I love the most is an artist date.
Artist dates are about practicing play which by nature, begins to dismantle perfectionism. Play lets the connections in our brain that are meant to be, finally match up, because they have the space to. Artist dates are about giving into whimsy and letting inner selves wander, filling up our well of inspiration. Usually, the best concepts and ideas that emerge from you are not going to be had at your computer screen. I want you to untether from your computer as much as possible – especially as we get into these summer months – and go play. Ponder. Delight and romance yourself.
Whatever emerges will turn into innovative ideas, perspectives, and opinions you hadn’t previously accessed. Maybe they’ve always been buried inside, but with artist dates, they have a better chance of becoming clear.
Once, I went to a nature preserve and learned about a walking palm, a tree that literally moves its roots to get closer to water and nourishment. That sparked honestly like, an infinite number of ideas and connections. Stories. Memories. Clients and friends I wanted to share this with.
Another time, I went on a helicopter ride and saw a beautiful hiking path from so many feet up. I had just hiked that path a few years earlier and it was muddy, hard, and hot. It was only through getting the 30,000 ft view that I was able to see the entire land for its full and true beauty and value. And don’t we all do that to ourselves, as we’re trudging the road of building our businesses and creating social impact?
Another time, I went to the mountains with my dog Gary and he is just a little chihuahua-mini schnauzer filled with so much unconditional love. I thought, wow, what if instead of an inner critic, I had an inner chihuahua? An inner cutie, who just held my Self in the highest, most unconditional regard and showed up in that level of leadership? Let’s do the work to see ourselves in that light, instead. And I turned it into a post.
All of these posts inspired conversation and deep engagement and they wouldn’t have necessarily come up just from sitting here at my desk and going, think brain! Come up with something creative.
You gotta get out! And no, your artist date doesn’t have to be a helicopter ride or a trip to the mountains, it can be going to your favorite coffee shop and ordering your favorite cookie and tea and people watching. Or going to the zoo. Whatever that inner artist, that playful piece of yourself needs to have a delightful time. That will serve you so deeply.
Fostering Creativity by Embracing Failure and Big Risks
This spirit of play and whimsy can also help with the next piece or practice, which is falling in love with failure. Failure is a great tap for creativity because if we’re failing, we’ve probably stretched ourselves and taken a big risk.
As the eldest daughter of immigrants, failure was once not an option. But more recently, as I’ve grown my consulting business, I’ve really realized that failure is not really what I thought. I used to think failure was permanent, shameful, embarrassing, dishonorable, that it reflected somehow on myself in a like, irreversible way.
But failure is just part of the process and I know everyone says that, but at some point, you realize that nothing actually falls apart when you fail, especially when you have a community that acts as bubble wrap around you that you realize like, oh! This is now just a story and some related insights that can help other people learn from this.
If it’s a systems failure or breakdown, we learn to improve it for next time to grow exponentially. If it’s a trial of something that didn’t work out, what didn’t work out about it and how can we creatively do something new next time? How can we experiment?
You know, Anthony Bourdain said “If you don’t risk the bad meal, you’ll never get the magical one.” I’ll never forget that quote. In our case, as impactful coaches, consultants, service providers, if you don’t risk the potentially too ahead of its time offer, the too high of a shoot-your-shot pitch, or the stretch goal that never was, you’ll never achieve the magical one.
And even while saying that, I’m painfully aware of the reality that so often, women of color and other underrecognized folks are not allowed to fail in their jobs or lives. I’ve experienced and read about this mostly in the nonprofit field but I have to imagine it’s pretty across the board, although in the nonprofit field, it can take on its own flavor. But so often, we aren’t given the space or opportunity for risk-taking required that will actually create a new reality and imagine a new future into reality.
So how do we account for that piece, when it’s in our history or perhaps our current reality? The best and most actionable thing I can think of is to actively foster a culture of appreciation. Start meetings with clients or create Slack channels in your communities just for wins or hey-we-went-for-its, and encourage people to toot their horn and amplify their big stretches. Create a cheerleading community that acts as your bubble wrap of psychological safety.
Compelling Storytelling in Pre-Launch Content with an End in Mind
And then finally, moving on to just a tactical content or writing framework point of view, I recently saw this YouTube video about how the writers of Succession, a show with perhaps some of the best writing of all time, work to write an episode. I’ll stick that in the show notes too, but essentially in the writers’ room, there’s a 3-meter by 3-meter panel with a list of characters and the season’s arc, and they break it down into episodes. Yes, anything can happen in an episode but only these things can happen, within these parameters, within this framing so they can still land at the end of the story. Once you have the whole story mapped out, you can fill in the interior pieces.
One way I see this playing out is definitely in launch planning for a new campaign, an offer, or visibility project like a book or new podcast. I just launched the Thought Leadership Clarity Course, and it’s … different. It’s a new kind of thing. Whereas most online course creators promise Fast! Now! Immediate results! My thing is slow. It’s a deep dive. Because putting our “why” into words and building influence and recognition around it takes time. It just does.
While others promise Painless, Easy, and Simple, this work is not that. It’s actually emotionally hard to begin the tender work of unearthing our inner chaperone’s messages and memories, to get into right relationship with that part of ourselves. But there’s no way around it if we are committing to deeper, systems-level change as a result of our visibility. But it’s worth it because it unlocks a new reality for us and uncovers a new, more embodied way to lead.
So all that being said, I knew I had to tell a creative and cohesive story in my lead up to this launch to make something that’s slow and hard still deeply valuable and desirable. So I told the stories of shutting down my 6-month group coaching program, even though it created great results, and turning it into this self-pace course to serve my own rest. I told the stories of brilliant people saying things to me like, I have nothing to say or write and sharing how that’s a direct effect of not having clarity in your brand message. I shared all these stories, about 20 of them actually, to my email and LinkedIn audience before I even launched.
And it was through having a clear end-point I wanted to bring people along this journey through, I was able to work backward to come up with dozens of stories. It’s ironic, but when you can write about absolutely anything, it becomes harder to come up with content. But when you know where you’re going and can create a story around how we can get there together, it’s just easier to be creative. If you want to hear some of those stories or access the first episode of the Thought Leadership Clarity Course, for free, you can check out the link in the show notes for that as well.
Creativity in Shared Insights and Community Connections
So all that being said, let’s move into two communal practices. We’ve talked so far about things YOU can do on your own to boost creativity, from going on artist dates to almost storyboarding your content to achieve a certain ending. But community bolsters creativity in a really cool way.
I was a student inside the Op-Ed project, which is such a great program, and something I’ll never forget from that program is that “You want your ideas to have sex.” And that happens as you share your ideas with other people, and let it kind of pollinate, reproduce, proliferate. The ideas come together and become a new thing, altogether.
So, having deep conversations with people in your community who are practiced guides and experts in their own thing, who then reflect back new insights on your own key brand messages, offers, ideas, and perspectives – that is a great way to quickly have a creative moment! Moments of saying, OMG, I never would have thought about it that way. Mind-blowing moments.
Another way to let creativity take hold or emerge is to address any piece of content or work directly towards a loved one who belongs to the audience you support. Through the process of going deeper into your story and reconnecting with your ‘why,’ the person you most want to serve becomes more clear and you can direct your messaging and actions towards that person to inspire them towards their future self.
It’s tempting to want to speak to everyone but of course, when you’re speaking to everyone, nobody can really pick up on that message. Instead, address your comms to that one person, almost like your content is a love letter to that person. It can help the right words pour out of you. And, it almost works like a lovingkindness meditation.
Tactically, it’s similar to the practice I mentioned earlier about storyboarding. When you can talk about anything, to everyone, of course, it’s overwhelming. What the heck would you talk about. But when you are crystal clear on your person and their specific expression of the problem you solve, all the ideas emerge.
How Deadlines Inspire Creativity AND Consistency
Especially when – ok and I guess this is the last practice I’ll share to boost your creativity – which is to have something that creates a consistent deadline.
If I wasn’t committed to having a biweekly podcast, these words would not emerge. And once an idea for a topic settles in, I start getting inspiration everywhere.
I decided to talk about creativity last week and all of a sudden, a clip about how the Succession writers create their episodes. A reminder to pick up my copy of Artists Way which has been by my bedside and abandoned morning pages for months. These bullet points just came together easefully into a full episode, without a lot of work, because once the intention is there, the right pieces fall into place.
There’s a dance between creativity and consistency. Sometimes, folks groan at the thought of needing to hit a schedule or deadline but personally, I’ve found that the rigor of a deadline sparks creativity, maybe out of necessity but it emerges nonetheless. So, consider having something that kinda forces you to maintain a publishing cadence, whether it’s a weekly LinkedIn post, a bi podcast episode, a monthly LinkedIn live, a quarterly client recap – these are all avenues for thought leadership that not only build top of mind trust, but creates avenues for your creativity to flow.
OK, that’s about it for now. There’s a wealth of resources in this episode’s show notes, so don’t forget to check it out! See ya next time.
Resources from this episode:
Check out Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity.
You can find the YouTube video explaining How an Episode of Succession is written here.
I mentioned three LinkedIn posts arising from “an artist date” or just getting inspiration from nature. You can check out this post inspired by my dog Gary, this post inspired by a botanical garden, or this post inspired by a helicopter ride.
Connect with me:
LinkedIn: Tania Bhattacharyya