Cadillac Ranch on Route 66

Two things you need to spark creativity

There was a kid in my fifth-grade class who could draw anything. He made a business of it, too. You could ask him to draw something (usually one of our favorite cartoon or comic characters) and a couple of days later, you’d have a perfect (if not original) work of art handed to you at recess.

I think about this kid often. Not because of his art, but because of something he said.

He told me he didn’t plan on taking art classes, because he didn’t want to ruin his “style”. Nevermind his commissioned artwork was basically to copy something we’d seen in a comic book.

There’s a whole school of copywriting that says you just need to copy high-performing sales pages by hand to learn how great persuasive writing works. You’ll catch the rhythm and flow of the language, and learn key structures that help move people toward a decision to buy.

That’s what my young friend was doing, learning from the masters by copying their work.

One tip Kent Sanders shared on my podcast last week was using a “mentor book” to organize your own book idea. Take a book you want yours to be like, and study it. Figure out how the author structured the book.

Once you have the structure, the words for your book will flow more naturally.

My young friend didn’t want training to box him in artistically. What we didn’t know then was that constraints can actually make us more creative!

One of the best-selling children’s books ever written, Green Eggs and Ham, uses only 50 different words. Dr. Seuss wrote it with that limitation in a bet with the founder of Random House.

Structure and constraints can spark creativity.

If you were planning a road trip, you could think of structure as your roadmap, and constraints as anything that makes the trip more interesting or profitable:

  • people you need to visit
  • that restaurant you’ve always wanted to try
  • fuel limitations (got enough places to plug in your Tesla?)
  • a national park 50 miles out of the way that you’ve always wanted to see
  • the amount of time you have available for travel

Structure tells you what roads go where. Constraints offer adventure and opportunity along the way. The interstate gets you there more efficiently, but only Route 66 has the Cadillac Ranch and the World’s 2nd Largest Rocking Chair.

See also  Advice from the Super Bowl
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