Published: 6 years ago

Creative Structure

People ask me all the time, “Danny, where do you come up with the amazing content on your blog?” (And by “people” I mean “nobody,” and by “all the time” I mean “not once in two and a half years,” and by “amazing” I mean “so mediocre your sixth grade English teacher is probably spinning in her grave.”)

So feel free to listen in as I answer the question that no one is asking. I’ve learned that creativity requires structure. I used to believe that I would write the best when inspiration struck. And while it’s true that just the right moment can inspire a decent writing session, the fact is that inspiration often doesn’t strike enough to populate more than a handful of blog posts per month.

I’m a frequent victim of writer’s block. Whether it’s writing a blog post, a sermon, a wedding ceremony, a funeral, or a grocery list, I tend to blank out and freeze up. (“Wait…I had it…DANG…what was that…oh yeah, Velveeta.”)

That’s why I believe that we have to structure creativity. Whether you’re a blogger or an author or a songwriter or a painter, creativity rarely “just happens.” For me, I have a folder on my computer where I toss lots of ideas until I’m ready to do something with them. They might be original thoughts, or they might be sound bites from a podcast or a line from a book. I capture those ideas on either my Moleskine notebook (always with me) or my voice recorder (sometimes with me). Even if it’s just a good title or a sentence that has nothing to go along with it, that title or sentence gets dumped in the hopper.

When I sit down to write, I’ll often look over that list and see if there’s anything good. Right now I have random thoughts on powder kegs, my disdain for the overused phrase “everything happens for a reason,” and comparisons between the guest focus at Chipotle vs. La Hacienda. Whether any of those things will ever make it into a blog post remains to be seen (you might want to weigh in now and save us all a lot of anguish later), but they’re there for the process.

In Tony Morgan’s book Killing Cockroaches: And Other Scattered Musings On Leadership, he says that “creativity rarely sneaks up on us.” I agree with that statement. If you’re going to write or preach or paint or teach, you have to develop a left-brained structure for your right-brained inspiration.

So what’s your creative structure? I’d love to hear it. Comment below.

3 Comments.
  1. Mike Gifford says:

    Danny,
    Majority of my good content comes from my mornings of quite times and when I just sit down and write. When I am done writing, I write some more.

    Speaking of Leadership qualities, what do you make of Stephen Covey’s book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People?

  2. Clayton Greene says:

    My friend and soon to be SCAD masters graduate has talked about this before. He is a graphic designer. He went to see a seminar by Rob Bell (clearly an artist in his speaking) where he talked about being inspired by the world around us. Signs, billboards, comments, conversations, the wind, you know whatever blows your way.

    I like it. I would say it is being conscious of your surroundings and then pondering those things in light of your world view. It provides for great things like discourseandjargon.blogspot.com (shameless plug)

  3. Marc says:

    Good post! This reminds me of something from one of my favorite books, Made to Stick, where they talk about how all the best advertisements are made using just a handful of templates. The basic idea is that we are more creative when we have a structure to follow then if we just randomly try to come up with ideas on our own.

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