Surviving social media with your creativity intact


I don’t know about you but I am awe-struck and often overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information available to us each day over the web. Add to that the real-time capacity of social media and it’s easy to feel under siege from new technology.

While it isn’t life threatening, it can be deadly to your creativity. That’s why my constant companion over the last five years has been a voice recorder and today I retired the latest (the black one on the right). I’ve dropped it, sat on it, thrown it or simply used it one too many times. I am confident that I will mistreat it’s replacement equally.

I mention this because such tools are indispensable in our efforts to be creative while remaining engaged with technology. Dictaphones allow me to jettison my ideas – good and bad – as soon as I have them, leaving my brain free to think, or more importantly not “think”, of the next idea.

This may seem like an unremarkable habit but such strategies are increasingly vital in world connected through social media. As any creative person will tell you, when you have an idea that excites you, you’re immediately gripped by a compulsion to get it down. In the absence of a pen and paper, dictaphone or suitable app, holding ideas in your head while pouring in more information can completely stall your creative process.

It was Marcello Serpa, Brazil’s creative champion, that brought this to my attention fifteen years ago in Australia. He was sharing advice about effective creative thinking when he implored each of us to, “Stay light in your head”.

At the time I didn’t really know what Marcella meant. As a young and hungry advertising creative I was predisposed to keep thinking until drops of blood appeared on my forehead. Now, after two decades of trying different ways of thinking and working with creative directors and art directors from different parts of the world, I truly understand the importance of what he said. As such, I now have an arguably unhealthy co-dependent relationship with dictaphones.


As real-time social media sweeps over our lives it is more important than ever to organize your life and tools in a way that allows your brain to do what it does best: pull off surprising creative leaps that are only possible when the mind is given room to move. In fact by doing so you increase your creativity as the mind increases its output encouraged by constant un-cluttering. So here’s five suggestions about how to stay creative when standing under a waterfall of information:

1. STUFF YOUR BRAIN: Take full advantage of our increased access to information but be an active curator. Don’t waste your time on anything and everything that’s thrown at you. Focus on content outside your field that inspires you within your field.

2. USE TECH TO UNCLUTTER: Whatever method you choose, clear your brain continuously. It can be exhausting and creativity limiting to try and keep all the information and ideas in your head. There’s voice recorders, iPhone recorder apps and Evernote all do the trick.)

3. STOP “THINKING”: Whatever your creative field, we all know from experience that the brain is hard at work even when we’re distracted or not consciously thinking about the creative problem at hand. So once you’ve uncluttered your brain, don’t hit the gas with your thinking. Instead let your brain solve the problem in its own way. Swimming, meditation and vertical bungee jumping are all worthwhile distractions.

4. ACCELERATE CREATIVELY: Once you’ve streamlined the systems you need for your mind to be as inspired and effective as possible, keep challenging it. Expand your interests, take on more and give your ideas way.

5. COLLABORATE: As precious as we all are regarding ownership of ideas, the fastest way to increase the quality and speed of your ideas is to collaborate with a mind informed by a totally different set of life experiences and knowledge. Just choose someone you kind of get on with who has similar judgment as to what’s a good idea or you might just kill each other (and that can limit output).