10 Ways to Kick-Start Creativity Under a Deadline

Abstract creative polygonal colorful light bulb background. Innovation and creativity concept. 3D Rendering

Listen closely. Can you hear it? That's the sound of thousands of keyboards clicking as copywriters work to get out the billions of words needed every day.

Direct-response sales letters. Web copy. Emails. Advertorials. White papers. Case studies. Product descriptions. Fundraising mailers. E-newsletters.

That's what we do. We write compelling copy. We generate ideas with persuasive pizzazz. And we do it on a deadline.

But sometimes, generating the thousands of words and dozens of ideas we need each week is not an easy task. Especially under pressure.

Sometimes we stall, stuck … our creativity mired in cerebral concrete as the deadline bears down upon us.

We've all been there. But don't despair. Here are 10 ways to kick-start your creativity when you're under a deadline.

Read all the way to the end, and you will get an absolutely free, bonus tip #11!

  1. Freewrite: You may be stalled because your inner critic is editing everything you think of before you can even get it out on paper. Shut him up by freewriting for 10 minutes on your topic. If you've never tried freewriting before, you will be amazed at the strange and wonderful connections that appear. Think about the topic or service you're writing about, and then pick up a pen or sit at your keyboard and write down every single thought that pops into your head. Don't edit. Don't worry. Don't evaluate. Just write. It doesn't matter what form the words take: phrases, sentences, single words. Even if it seems like gibberish, there may be some new idea in it that will help you move forward on your project. (Think of it like being stuck in a traffic jam. Doesn't any form of forward momentum make you feel better?)
  2. Tweet Yourself: Lost in a jumble of thoughts? Try condensing your topic into a single tweet. With a limit of only 280 characters, you'll find yourself cutting to the core of your message and doing it in an insightful way. This may even produce the headline you've been looking for or compose a great line you can use.
  3. Be Negative: Create a list of "What My Product is NOT.” You've heard that two negatives make a positive? Brainstorm a list of all the things your product is NOT. Those ideas might combine into a compelling comparison. Or they might help you focus on the facets of your topic that WILL promote sales.
  4. Create a Cartoon: If you're tired of thinking about words, think of pictures. What would your topic look like if it were a cartoon? How would the Big Idea look sketched out? What insight about your product could be imparted with a picture? (You don't have to be an artist to get the point across.) If you're inspired, create a whole comic strip.
  5. Turn the Page with Age: Think of your product from the varying perspectives of age. What would a 6-year-old say? A 20-year-old say? A 50-year-old say? How about an 80-year-old?
  6. Pry into Perceptions: This is a variation on the "Turn the Page with Age" exercise. Make a list of different groups of people: young mothers, grumpy businessmen, Bohemian artists, military families, fitness fanatics, elderly shut-ins, rock-stars, survivalists, college students, ER nurses, choir directors … (Whatever groups you want. You may even want to make a list of dozens of different "tribes," so you can repeat this exercise in the future.) Imagine the comments each group would make about your product. Or think about a conversation between two different groups.
  7. Become a Mad Writer with a Mural: Using a whiteboard, a long piece of paper, or multiple pieces of paper stretched out horizontally, start your own kind of graffiti mural. Write down words, phrases, or numbers that relate to your product. Draw emojis and arrows to connect different ideas. Put in sketches or pictures of benefits or promises. Throw your thoughts into the mix with one-word expressions. Envision yourself as a mad artist in his studio throwing ideas at a blank canvas. When your canvas is filled, step back and look at the visual. Are there connections you didn't see before? Progressions? Ideas you haven't tapped? Pictures to explore?
  8. Claim the World of Kid-Lit: Simplify your ideas enough that even a child could understand them. Take five sheets of paper, stack them horizontally, and fold them in half. Then write about your concept in storybook form as if you are reading the tale to children. (You'll be surprised how concepts become clearer when you try to explain them to a kid.)
  9. Listen to Your Product: If your product could talk, what story would it tell? Put your product into a short, autobiographical story. Or write its bio for an introduction at a business conference. Listen to what it would say about its coming into the world, its popularity, its "feelings," its accomplishments. (Okay. Anthropomorphism — giving an inanimate object human abilities — is a controversial approach, but it can also be helpful in freeing up your mind!)
  10. Sing the Alphabet Song: Starting with A and moving all the way to Z, list one word you associate with your product. You may find the perfect term for your product by moving through the alphabet and making new associations. (Give yourself a pass for the letter X, but yes, there are interesting words for even the most contrary consonants.)

And here is your FREE bonus tip!

  1. Explore the animal kingdom: Be a dog-talker. Conversations with my dog, Zoey, keep me sane. Maybe it's just talking out my concept and letting those random thoughts escape from my head that's helpful, or maybe my Zoey has really good ideas … But saying something out loud helps. Be a cat confidante, a cow conversationalist, or a horse-whisperer. Talk it out and get your creativity kick-started, revved up, and headed toward the finish line.

Listen closely. Can you hear it? Your keyboard is calling you back, begging you to join the chorus of copywriters producing the words the world needs.

Lucky for you, ideas now flow through your fingers like electricity through a cord. You've kick-started your creativity and defied deadline dread.

Do you have any tactics that have helped you kick-start your creativity? Share with us in the comments.

The AWAI Method™

The AWAI Method™ for Becoming a Skilled, In-Demand Copywriter

The AWAI Method™ combines the most up-to-date strategies, insights, and teaching methods with the tried-and-true copywriting fundamentals so you can take on ANY project — not just sales letters. Learn More »

Click to Rate:
Average: 4.2
Published: September 6, 2019

1 Response to “10 Ways to Kick-Start Creativity Under a Deadline”

  1. An idea for producing write ups with short deadlines – I mostly use it to solve personal problems.
    When faced with any kind of serious problem, I imaginatively practice sending my creative mind beyond the moon. I then imagine that it has reached somewhere absolutely quiet and undisturbed (far away from the maddening crowd). I ask my creative mind to critically observe and analyze all aspects of my problem(s) and to come up with the best possible creative solution(s). Initially, I used to get blank responses. However, with persistence, I started to get feedback for the required actions to take.
    Please let me have your response about this idea.
    Moinul, Dhaka, Bangladesh

    Guest (Moinul)

Guest, Add a Comment
Please Note: Your comments will be seen by all visitors.

You are commenting as a guest. If you’re an AWAI Member, Login to myAWAI for easier commenting, email alerts, and more!

(If you don’t yet have an AWAI Member account, you can create one for free.)

This name will appear next to your comment.

Your email is required but will not be displayed.

Text only. Your comment may be trimmed if it exceeds 500 characters.

Type the Shadowed Word
Too hard to read? See a new image | Listen to the letters

Hint: The letters above appear as shadows and spell a real word. If you have trouble reading it, you can use the links to view a new image or listen to the letters being spoken.

(*all fields required)