Tuesday, June 18, 2013

From the vault: 11 ways I use Twitter to boost my creativity

With two blogs, a busy speaking schedule, and a business that offers clients creative communications strategies, training and content, I need all the ideas and inspiration and energy I can get. Where others are motivated by money or family or a cause, creativity is what pushes me forward. I draw creativity from many sources, including pursuing my own art and music, but Twitter's an indefatigable fountain for me to drink from.  Here's how I use Twitter to boost my creativity:
  1. To get viewpoints from many nations:  My follows include people on almost every continent (still waiting for some outposts at the poles to find me) who speak at least five languages. The ability to stream a world view's important to me, and gives me a richer perspective.  And it means there's always someone to hear from, no matter what the hour is. In fact, I wrote this post while traveling in England in 2010. Way out of my normal time zone, I got to listen in on a completely different set of conversations.
  2. To find new ideas and out-of-my-box examples:  I follow an odd mix of people, and I mean that as a compliment. My clients are always looking for ideas on using social media in their varied sectors, and the topics and people I follow on Twitter run the gamut--it helps me to fill my inbox with useful models.
  3. To get news, fast and furious:  I'm used to having lots of news streams, but Twitter is hands down the best and the fastest. If a late-breaking item fits in with something else I'm writing or speaking about, I have it at my fingertips, no matter where I might be. I can dip into the stream and enrich my work with it instantly.
  4. To learn from my curious followers:  Sometimes, the best way to see something anew is to be questioned about it by someone who's genuinely curious and doesn't know you well.  My followers on Twitter ask me all sorts of questions--about my blog, about public speaking, about social media, about food and travel and playing guitar--that prompt me to think with care about what I do.  It's a great playback machine.
  5. To master the art of tight spaces:  As a longtime editor, Twitter's my favorite tool to push my writing back into brevity. Making every word count rules this space, whether I'm crafting my own message or tightening someone else's so I can retweet it. The exercise, repeated dozens of times a day, is an essential writing and editing tool and forces you to think differently about your words.
  6. To work with great collaborators:  Having a regular crowd to help source my work is the greatest gift I get from Twitter. Many of my followers have become my best sources and tipsters, sharing items in their streams that they know I'll appreciate (and vice versa), or pointing me to them publicly or in direct messages. They alert me to typos, angles, sources, ideas and perspectives I could not easily find on my own.  We share manuscripts, support and encouragement. Because of Twitter, I've been able to publish useful guest posts from contributors in places far-flung from me, and to ask them for perspective when I'm covering an issue to which they live closer than I do. I'm pretty sure Twitter interactions helped me get invited to keynote a speechwriting conference in London, and I'll be chairing the next one of this group in Brussels in September. How does it get better than that for the creative soul?
  7. To find serendipity:  One day, I read posts from a communications colleague who was off to protest a cement kiln, followed by posts from a cement industry association on green uses for the stuff, and from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (a former employer of mine) on industry regulations...quite the cement mixer of people I follow, isn't it?  That kind of coincidence coughs up themes, gives me a broader and richer perspective and jolts my thinking.
  8. To have fun:  An essential element in my creative process, the fun comes in sharing enjoyment--whether that comes from humorous news items or a shared love of cooking.  Because I let loose with humor once in a while on Twitter, I get plenty back...and because I share personal interests, I have a richer sense of my collaborators on Twitter, and they of me.  We get to stretch our cleverness muscles in much the same way we help each other learn more.
  9. To spark ideas.  Some of the most popular blog posts I've ever written came from questions on Twitter.  "Could you help me do this...?" "Where do you find that?"  or "What do you think about...?" are my favorite queries, because they always spark ideas.  I think of them as reader requests, and run with them--and it never fails.
  10. To grow with an expandable universe:  Many of my very favorite follows of all were initially surprises to me...friends of friends, or those retweeted by people I followed first, who kept, well, landing on my doorstep, so to speak.  As for the colleagues I already knew in real life, some of them have surprised me, too, in this space. To me, Twitter's great possibility isn't about the numbers, but about the ability to expand a network of new thinkers in ways that make sense and surprise me all at the same time.
  11. To take a refreshing break:  I may have my head down, focused on a deadline, or be forced offline on a plane for a few hours. But Twitter's always an easy break to bring me back into the varied world I inhabit online.  Watching the stream go by, even for a few minutes, is bound to spark some ideas.
(This post updates one I wrote and published in 2010.)

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