Creativity: 9 ways to have good ideas – Eddie Shleyner, VeryGoodCopy

Eddie Shleyner, Founder, VeryGoodCopy
In this talk, Eddie Shleyner from VeryGoodCopy will share his views on storytelling, creativity, and where to find ideas

Key takeaways on exercising creativity

  • Creativity should be fun, rewarding, and bring you joy.
  • Creativity is the act of taking old things and putting them together in new ways.
  • Time is a luxury that gives us permission to complicate things.
  • If you want to deliver a message, one of the best ways to make it stick is to frame it in a personal story.
  • Give yourself a hard deadline and you’ll get your creative work done without second-guessing it.
  • Take advantage of the power of incubation by stepping away from your work every once in a while.

[11:06] 1. It’s Not Creativity.

  • Eugene Schwartz said…
    • “A better word for creativity is connectivity.”
    • “You can’t take nothing and make anything. You’re not God.”
  • Instead, when you’re being creative, you’re trying to connect two separate ideas that logically would not go together up until that moment.
  • Eddie’s exercise:
    • Create two columns…
      • Column A: What you are advertising
        • e. company name, product, service, feature, etc.
      • Column B: Just about anything
        • write 50 random things
      • Get several people in a room and try to connect these random things with what you are advertising.

[18:37] 2. Missing the Mark is Fine.

  • Russel Mael said…
    • “I think, in the beginning, I was trying to be as much like Mick Jagger or Roger Daltrey as I could possibly be—and I kinda missed the mark by a few thousand miles; but something else emerged.”
  • Being creative doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be original.

[21:14] 3. Be an Idiot.

  • Mike Monteiro said…
    • “The secret to being good at anything is to approach it like a curious idiot, rather than a know-it-all genius.”
  • Don’t put so much pressure on yourself to be an expert.

[23:37] 4. Where Ideas Don’t Come From…

  • John Cleese said…
    • “We don’t know where we get our ideas from. What we do know is that we do not get them from our laptops.”
  • Having real-world, physical experience is excellent fodder.
  • Bong Joon-Ho said…
    • “The most personal is the most creative.”

[25:43] 5. Parkinson’s Law

  • “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
  • If you give yourself a year to write a book, it will take you a year to write it. But if you give yourself three weeks to write a book, it will take you three weeks to write it.
  • By giving a hard deadline to creative work, you won’t have time to second-guess your decisions and doubt your ideas.

[28:35] 6. Having Great Ideas is Overrated.

  • Eugene Schwartz said…
    • “You don’t need to have great ideas if you can hear great ideas.”
  • Your job is less about invention and more about recognition and assembly.

[30:33] 7. Don’t Wait.

  • You must record your ideas as they come to you.
    • This is something you really have to train yourself to do.
  • You never know which of your ideas will be a breakthrough because, inevitably, you will
  • Create a “well” of ideas to pull from on Google Docs:
    • The headline/main idea
      • The lesson
      • The story or anecdote
      • Additional context or inspo

[33:52] 8. Do Let Yourself Forget.

  • Don Draper said…
    • “Peggy, just think about it. Deeply. Then forget it. And an idea will jump up in your face.”
  • This is incubation at work, and they lead to “lightbulb moments”.
  • Create a “well” of ideas to pull from on Google Docs:
    • The headline/main idea
      • The lesson
      • The story or anecdote
      • Additional context or inspo
    • If you’re on a tight deadline, work on several things at once, such as bouncing between three articles in one day.
      • This way, you’re working on one article consciously, and the other two unconsciously.

[37:37] 9. Allow Anything to Happen.

  • Use the improv rule: “yes, and…”
    • …as opposed to: “no, but…”
  • Scott McDowell said…
    • “‘Yes, and…’ is the protocol that allows for anything to happen.”

Q and A on exercising creativity

Q: Are there any key questions you always ask clients around a copywriting brief beyond the what/when, and more about revealing something they might not have thought to include in the brief?

A: You just want to get the conversation going. As long as you’re asking open-ended questions, you really can’t go wrong.


Q: Do you have any advice on recognizing when you’re burning out and it’s affecting your creativity? How do you reset?

A: Burnout is a phenomenon that will affect everybody at some point. The symptom is really simple: You start losing your enthusiasm and focus for whatever it is you once loved to do. The best thing you can do is to step away and occupy your mind with something else.


Q: How do you manage your copy getting watered down from having too many stakeholders or sign-off points?

A: The best thing to do is to keep your circle really tight from the get-go. There are a lot of tactical things you can do such as not letting too many people into the Google Doc or the meeting. When I’m working with creative partners, I try to keep it to myself, a designer, and the original stakeholder.


Q: I have an obsession with making this perfect. Because of this, I’ve procrastinated about putting out content. How do you avoid perfectionism?

A: I can edit articles until I die. I can just keep on going. It’s a really healthy thing to do to give yourself a deadline—self-imposed—and say, “I’m going to publish/share this on this date at this time.” Wherever it is, that’s where it is.


Q: You mentioned that you started knowing nothing about copywriting. At what point in your journey did you start to see yourself as a “copywriter”?

A: I saw myself as a copywriter from the get-go. I immediately started calling myself a copywriter and telling people that I’m a copywriter. I certainly didn’t know as much as I know now or have that experience, but I had a goal and that’s where I wanted to be. Give yourself that confidence at the beginning and, eventually, you’ll become it.


Q: Do you have any tips on how to avoid “proofing fatigue”?

A: Step away from it and take some time away from the draft. Take a break and occupy your mind with something else. When you come back to it, your brain will have been incubating it and the next steps will come to you more easily.