writers block concept, crumpled paper, question marks

How Marketers Can Refine Their Creative Process in a Pandemic

By: Ann Wylie, President, Wylie Communications

July 6, 2020

Yesterday morning, we got a call from Mom’s dementia-care facility: My 96-year-old mother was lying in the fetal position, nonresponsive, with a fever, unable to take fluids. The nurse who called sobbed, “I’ve seen a lot of COVID-19 cases. This is bad.”

Within 30 minutes, I was under the covers with a half pound of halva.

By afternoon, Mom was sitting up, waving, smiling and talking.

It’s hard to imagine that Mom doesn’t have the virus. Her facility is the hot spot in her county, and her floor is the hot spot in the facility. She’s now one of only three residents and staff members on her floor who tested negative earlier this week.

But, at least for today, I don’t have to decide whether to move Mom to a hospital, whether it’s safe to visit, whether insurance will pay for Mom’s care.

A few rungs down on Maslow’s Hierarchy

Whatever our personal situations, we are all, at least metaphorically, a little bit under the covers with a half pound of halva right now.

You might be waiting for the PPP check to arrive, hoping that the 201st call to unemployment will finally do the trick, worried about getting the baby settled before the 11:30 meeting, wondering whether having dinner with friends might actually be deadly.

All of this puts us quite a few rungs down on Maslow’s Hierarchy. It’s hard to think, let alone work—let alone write—when whether to return to Pilates could be a life-or-death decision.

In this environment, a good creative process can help. Here’s the one I use.

Use the five-step creative process.

To get the job done, even in the worst of circumstances, try these five steps:

  1. Forage, or gather information. This is the “feed your brain” step of the process. Here’s where you research the raw material that will become your idea, press release or story.
  2. Analyze that information. Now that you have your raw materials, focus, sift through and organize them to see how the pieces fit together. Look for themes, holes, relationships and structure.
  3. Incubate. Let the information simmer. In this step, you take your eye off the ball and let the back of your mind work on your project for a while. For me, yesterday, this was the halva-under-the-covers step.
  4. Break through. Here’s the magical moment where your brain presents a brilliant idea fully formed. This is where you come up with answers to questions like “What should I use for my lead?” and “How am I going to organize this thing?”
  5. Knuckle down. Now’s when you take Ernest Hemingway’s advice and “apply the seat of your pants to the seat of the chair.” In other words, turn your great ideas into a great story.

If it’s hard, it’s because you’re human.

Trouble focusing? Not sleeping?” novelist R.O. Kwon recently asked in The New York Times. If so, Kwon said, you’re probably grieving for your pre-COVID life.

Times are hard, and so is writing these days. But when you need to get the job done, these five steps can help.

Ann Wylie is president of Wylie Communications. She works with communicators and marketers who want to reach more readers and with organizations that want to get the word out. Learn more in Ann’s email newsletter.

Copyright © 2020 Ann Wylie. All rights reserved.

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