Creativity is Messy: 5 Tips to Being an Original Thinker

In business we hear: “Think OUTSIDE of the BOX.” What many don’t understand is that the road to original ideas is not a direct route. Getting to ‘outside of the box’ cannot be navigated by a GPS. It’s off the grid, like traveling on a dirt road, taking detours, and hoping you’ll know you’re at the right place when you’ve arrived.  

This is a critical piece of information for ANYONE who wants to do a TED talk, a corporate speech or even write a book that is FULL OF ORIGINAL IDEAS.

I got a call from someone, who wanted speaking coaching after he had seen his accountant friend, and one of my former clients, speak.  He was surprised and impressed that his straight-laced friend got laughs, tears, and a standing ovation. Did I mention that he’s a CPA? Now, he wanted the same thing – to speak and have an audience fall in love with him. I took him on.

At our first meeting, he left disappointed as he thought his entire speech would come together at that first meeting.  After we ended the hour Skype session with some rough ideas, he asked, “Is this working?”

What ISN’T working – with more work – WILL.  Be suspicious of things that are too good to be true. Newsflash: It takes MORE than “7 Days to Write your Best Seller,” way more than “5 Hours to Lose Weight” and it may NEVER happen that you “Find God and Peace over Breakfast.”

If you are to create something that will blow people’s socks off, you have to put in TIME and accept that the creative process is MESSY.

The journey to SUCCESS is littered with trial and error. The first pass is like putting on your underwear. Nobody has to see it unless you want them to. Once you’re covered, you get to address the next layer. The fun begins when you cut, improve and refine. Failing is a friendly tool, letting you know something needs to be fixed. We have to be willing to toss out material the way we get rid of other trash. Did I just lose the HOARDERS?

Look at it this way: A baby takes 9 months, and that doesn’t include your 5 years of diets, bad choices, and that Jack Daniels, “Let’s do shooters!” year.

As Michelangelo said, “In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.”  I would have advised him to take another pass at those sentences, lose some of the words and maybe get it down to, “I get rid of what’s there that’s not needed.” Too bad Michelangelo wasn’t my client; I could have made him a success.

I urge clients NOT TO RUSH, but to give themselves room and time to find the story that will motivate, a message that will inspire, and jokes to keep everyone awake. What matters most is NOT the idea, but HOW you present it.

My job as a coach is to help you find your never-existed-before-in-time idea, explore it and turn it on its head to see it from all angles while you hold onto your faith in yourself and in your message.

When you put in the right amount of work, it WILL appear to have been effortless.

Here are 5 simple tips to help you become a better writer:

1. Try writing at 4 AM. It's easier to write when your critic is asleep. You will have access to the hidden gold in your subconscious.

2. Write inappropriate stuff. There will be time to edit and censor yourself, but filtering out ideas in the beginning will also filter out the gold. 

3. If you get stuck – write lists starting with the Top 10 Reasons Writing Sucks. Lists are not just for David Letterman.

4. Cover your computer screen while you write. Not seeing what you are writing will keep you from judging it as you go.

5. Set your iPhone timer and keep writing until it goes off. The difference between pros and amateurs is that the pros keep going even when they don’t want to.


  1. Judy, I never miss reading your entries. Thank you for keeping so many company in the dark as we mine for gold.

  2. So good to hear your response! Go get that GOLD!!!

  3. Hi Judy,

    I think you have just hammered the point across..I fell in love with your book 'Comedy Bible' and I am loving 'The message of you'..i think any speaker wins by writing..

  4. Judy, you're so right about finding ways to get ourselves "outside the box." I've earned my living by writing for years, and I do better when I get "outside the LINES" too. I "brain map" on a BLANK sheet of paper to find funny connections between topics. When I surprise myself, I know I'll surprise an audience. Your readers can Google mind mapping if it's new to them. I love your posts--thank you!

  5. Good tip Judy on mind-mapping!

  6. Judy - Ready/thought/worked on MESSAGE OF YOU last Aug 2013 from Denver to Illinois (13 hours on the road). Since August, I've been noodling for my message and is it the current delivery I've been giving with an average to "meh" amount of success. I do believe there is more to mine in my mind. (Love alliteration - sorry!) What holds me back are the still somewhat taboo topics of eating disorders from College days and depression from big girl days. My husband says I should approach these topics from the viewpoint of what it was like to live with me with these things. Ha! So my task is to figure out how to marry my current, based on finding more humor in everyday life, with the darker side of life. In other words, White is the New Black? Hmmmmm. Thanks, Judy...... Bobbe White

    1. With everything said on reality TV, there are no taboo topics - only censorship from our own inner critic.


Judy's Blog

Judy Carter blogs on comedy, storytelling and public speaking techniques, using personal stories and her adventures as a stand-up comic turned motivational public speaker. Her weekly blogs are read by fans of her books, “The Comedy Bible” (Simon and Schuster) and “The Message of You” (St. Martin’s Press), which include comics, speakers, and entrepreneurs. She is also known for teaching the value of humor and storytelling to businesses as a leadership and stress reduction tool.