Laura West is known as The Creative Thought Leader. She’s a creative business coach who works with both women and men to help them bring together their right brain creativity with the left brain practical marketing business strategies so they can have more impact with their marketing, as well as with their digital content.
I had the opportunity recently to talk with Laura about her work and how cultivating your creativity can be good for business, both in terms of coming up with innovative new ideas and in terms of more productivity.
Laura also explained her favorite term Flowmentum ™ and revealed her innovative and creative way to use mindmaps to get your ideas clarified well before you actually sit down to write about them.
Listen to the audio by clicking on the player below. The transcript of the interview is also included.
Ellen Britt: Hi everybody. This is Ellen Britt from The Future of Ink and today I am bringing you one of our expert writers on The Future of Ink, Laura West. Hi, Laura.
Laura West: Hi, Ellen.
Ellen: Laura, you are known as the creativity thought leader. Tell us a little bit about what that means and maybe first of all tell us a little bit about yourself of what it is you do.
Laura Yeah. Well I consider myself a creative business coach and I really focus on bringing together the right brain creativity with the left brain practical marketing business and bringing it together so that you can have more impact with the type of marketing that you do for your business.
Ellen: Tell us what now who do you serve primarily? Who’s your target market?
Laura: I mostly work with women entrepreneurs who are marketing themselves. So a lot of fellow entrepreneurs, lifestyle entrepreneurs, they’re packaging their expertise. They really want to do meaningful work with their business and they’re really out there to help change other people’s lives. What I find is that I tend to attract kind of two different types of these women entrepreneurs, some of them are more comfortable with their creativity and they have all these creative ideas and thoughts but then they don’t know how to get it out there.
They don’t know how to get it done and get it into some form or shape. So they’re wanting to have more of the structure and accountability and marketing piece. Then I also attract more of the left-brain logical successful women who are very comfortable with getting things done, getting things out there that they really want to open up more of their creative message or creative self-expression so that they can be more unique and stand out in the marketplace.
Ellen: Wow, that’s really interesting to me. So there’s two types of folks and so you’re saying the creative types those of us who are really left brain logical are over here may be jealous of the creative types but they have a problem because they don’t know how to get it out there.
Ellen: You know what I’m saying? And then the left brain logical types who think they’re not creative.
Laura:: Right, right and they’re thirsting and yearning for more of that expression and more ways to stand out from everybody else who does the types of work that they do.
Ellen: Wow. Now I know you’ve worked with a few men as well. Does these two types apply to men, do you think?
Laura: You know they do but I find for me I attract some men who they tend to be a little more renegade, what the word?
Ellen: Yeah, renegade.
Laura: For men. So they’re already kind of looking for different ways so they probably are more of the left brain and they’ve already accepted and they know there’s more of the creative right brain way of being.
Ellen: There’s been a lot of buzz lately that I’ve been seeing about how creativity or enhancing your creativity could actually be good for business or if you’re working for someone else, good for your productivity. Have you been reading anything or what’s your —
Ellen: What’s your take on it?
Laura: There’s a lot of different studies around creativity and productivity. One is from HeartMath, which is about that the more that you are giving yourself time to kind of cultivate your creativity, because you do, you have to play with it, you have to practice your creativity, that the more positive you are and so the more optimistic you are.
The more optimistic you are, the more successful you’re going to be because then you’re going to go out there and you’re feeling really good. You’re going to take a little more risk. You’re going to pick up the phone and make phone calls and you’re more likely to get clients or get your ideas out there. Then that positivity then gets you so excited and enthusiastic that you end up pursuing your ideas so you become more creative.
Ellen: Oh wow and a circular thing.
Laura: It’s a whole creativity, positivity circular piece that all enhances your productivity and your success.
Ellen: Well that’s interesting. Well I probably should have asked you this question to begin with but what is creativity?
Laura: It’s funny because a lot of people when they hear the word creativity, so many of us we immediately go to artists, song writers. You know, we think that it’s the creative people who are doing something artistic. So that’s kind of that first layer. But when I talk about creativity and especially creativity in business, you know, I truly believe and I know that everybody is creative and that it just shows up throughout your day. It’s not about being artistic as much as it’s about being curious, allowing your unique imprint to be put on something. So I mean it could be a creative way that you answer an email. Everybody is going to answer email differently, you know?
Laura: And so you might have a problem client and it’s how you approach that. To me that’s a creative act. Coming up with an idea for a program or a product that’s creativity in action. I think lots of times we go to the place that creativity is about the person who designs that cover for your product but we forget that it’s also about all the decisions that go into and the idea for that product. That’s all creativity.
Ellen: Yeah. I mean I know for me when I want a logo done or something like that, I always say I know what I like but I don’t know how to design it.
Ellen: You know?
Laura: Yeah. I say the same thing.
Ellen: Yeah, yeah. So it’s like okay so that’s creativity in a way. I kind of know a little bit about what I want right. So I think we discount that a lot.
Laura: Yeah, we do. We do. We think that it’s only in the domain of the graphic designers when we’re in business. Creativity in business are those people who design things and creativity in business is also the way you name your program, the elements that you’re going to put into your program, what materials are you going to teach, what’s your curriculum for your product. To me that is hugely creative. Very creative process.
Ellen: Well let’s swing it around to the content marketing and digital content since that’s kind of what we’re all about at The Future of Ink. Writing a blog post, which is, you know, pretty much there’s lots of kinds of digital content but writing blog posts or writing and eBook that kind of thing that’s kind of the bread and butter kind of thing. How can we use our creativity to enhance our digital content output when we’re talking about strictly just writing, you know, no quote unquotes or anything like that.
Ellen: If it’s just writing, how does that come into that? How can we use that to help us? Because for a lot of us sitting down and writing is a slog for a lot of people.
Laura: Yeah, yeah I know. [Laughter]
Even for me and the first word out of people’s mouths when they describe me is oh you’re so creative but I still have that pain. I get in front of the computer it’s like I got to write an article. But I’ve learned that there’s different tools that you can use to cultivate your creativity and I think that so often we see the output to people, people’s blog posts, peoples articles or their books and we think, oh my gosh, they’re so creative they’re amazing.
Well they had to sit their butt down on the seat and they had to tap into that flow, what I call Flowmentum(tm) just like you and I do. Just like everybody who’s listening and so it isn’t this magic domain that the creative people sit down it just flows. You really do have to practice it and nurture it and cultivate your creative ideas and then get it from your head or your mind map, which is what I do and actually get it into action.
Ellen: Well now that I know our audience is perking up their ears at the word mind map because people always do and it’s like oh ask her how she uses a mind map. So I’m going to ask you okay, you’re mind mapping your ideas before you write?
Laura: I do. I do. Whenever I have an idea come to me like an idea for an article or an idea for a blog post or a video or even a program, the first thing that I do is I do a mind map. Say it’s an article and I’ll put the topic of an article, kind of the theme right in the middle. I’ll just take a piece of paper, put it right in the middle and I love to use colorful markers because markers flow really nicely on the paper and to me there’s something magical about actually using marker and paper, tangible products. So I would do that first. I have mind mapping programs on my computer but I go to those after I’m already into an idea.
Ellen: Oh wow, okay.
Laura: So I use the hand drawn mind mapping technique to just really let ideas flow in no particular order. So I will put down, you know, an article might be ways to cultivate your creativity you know.
Laura: And I’ll just start putting down whatever thoughts come to me and then I might put down books that I might want to refer to or maybe there’s a person that pops into my mind like, oh, I might want to talk to them about how they cultivate their creativity. Then I will start writing examples next to each spoke on the mind map and like, oh well, here’s an example of this one. Now all of a sudden it gets me looking around for examples.
It’s like I’ve kind of dumped everything out so I can get it out of my brain and start making it into a tangible form and then it just starts forming with tat mind map especially when you allow it to go in a circular flow with no edits, no holding back. You don’t have to have it in a perfect order and you don’t say no that’s a stupid idea. You just put it down anyways.
Ellen: Well it’s not like an outline.
Ellen: I cringe at outlines. I’m so horrible at it and so this sounds much more organic.
Laura: It’s very much organic and then you get that all into this mind map and then what I do is then I look at the mind map and I start asking myself what’s missing. So I think that’s a really helpful piece.
Laura: It’s like well what’s missing here and it’s like okay well why, you know, like that example for the article ways to cultivate your creativity well why would somebody want to cultivate their creativity.
Laura: What is creativity? You know, start asking those types of questions and put those on my mind map so that it becomes a fuller article and then that leads me to other ideas. Whenever you start putting one idea that leads to usually two or three or more ideas and then when I feel complete then I can go through and do more of the outline and say you know, I like these pieces, I’m going to save that one for later. Okay that would be too much for one article, maybe I’ll divide it into two and then all of a sudden it’s like I start getting on roll.
Ellen: So you’ve actually gotten into this momentum process just by doing, entering into the mind map. Well explain and then this is your kind of your proprietary term Flowmentum ™
Laura: Flowmentum ™, yeah.
Ellen: Love it, love it. So talk to us about what is Flowmentum ™. I kind of grasp it a little bit because I hear your energy and excitement in your voice when you’re talking about this process of mind mapping and you’re obviously in Flowmentum ™ even as you were talking about it.
Ellen: But what is Flowmentum ™?
Laura: To me that is creativity in action.
Ellen: Cool, okay.
Laura: Flowmentum ™ is taking this creative idea in your mind and creating momentum out of it. Getting it to a flow. Getting it like releasing it, you know, almost like opening the dam and releasing that idea to be free and letting the ideas flow and seeing what happens. Being just open and curious and that’s why I love the mind mapping because there’s not a lot of structure to it. It’s not linear. It just creates flow and one idea leads to another idea leads to three other ideas, leads to a roadblock.
So when you go back and you look at something else and that leads to another idea. And then it gives you another idea to look at somebody’s book. So there’s this Flowmentum ™ that happens and it allows this idea to become something bigger than what you were just kind of mulling over in your mind.
Ellen: I love it. I love it. So mind maps are definitely one of those tools you can use when you’re sitting down.
Ellen: Instead of sitting down and just staring at the blank screen or a blank piece of paper.
Ellen: You go to your mind map and I love it you go to your markers, a big sheet of paper and it’s much less intimidating than sitting at your desk and looking at blinking cursor, isn’t it?
Laura: Right, right. Well and what I find is that so many people like a lot of my clients and myself too is that if we try to get it too quickly from the idea in our mind to putting it on paper, sometimes it flows. You know, sometimes it happens, you know, and it’s all just right there and you can jump it right out. But lots of times we’re staring at that cursor blinking, we’re staring at the blank page and we’re going to over to Facebook and we’re going to do all these other things.
Laura: What I don’t think a lot of people realize is that you have to nurture your creativity. I mean you really do have to cultivate it just like you would cultivate a garden. You know, like you have to feed it and water it and does it get enough sun, is it getting too much shade. You really do have to nurture your creativity that way. So for me I’ve noticed that when I take out my notebook, I have a notebook of blank paper where I do all my mind map and I’ve got my favorite markers and it’s full of ideas that I just mind map. I allow myself to just be in that Flowmentun ™ without any rules, without any judgments so then I can pick out the best stuff.
Ellen: So in other words all the ideas that you mind map some of them may never come to life.
Laura: That’s right. That’s totally true.
Laura: And being okay with that. I know so many people would beat their self up because it’s like well I have all these ideas and I never do them. Well you can’t possibly do all those ideas. You really only need to do what in a year you know, five to ten really great ideas. You know, that’s —
Ellen: Right. That’d be a lot.
Laura: That would be a lot. You know, that would be every other month doing some fantastic idea. That would be really amazing creative productivity.
Ellen: Well, you know, Laura, I was thinking because so many of us entrepreneur types get completely caught up in the bright shiny object syndrome. You know, we’re darting here and there like dragon flies over the water and I’m just wondering if that might be helpful. Does it dissipate some of that urge to go down this rabbit trail when you sit down and you actually mind map this thing? To me it seems like that’d be very satisfying and kind of give you a sense of completion in letting you know that it’s there for your if you want to come back and pick it up?
Laura: Yes. So first of all, what it does is it gets it out of your brain and what I’ve noticed is that all those ideas and thoughts all have these energetic threads and every possibility that’s in your brain, every idea has this energetic thread that’s taking up space and it’s taking up your energy. So when you put it down on a mind map and you let it run its course then it’s like ha, I can breathe and you can actually get clarity and it frees up your mind for other things to come in.
When you start trusting that process of all right, as I put my ideas down I don’t have to act on every idea. I’m going to pick the one that I have the most excitement about and I’m going to do those ideas. I can always come back to the other ideas because I’ve mind mapped them.
Ellen: Well I love this because so many people tell us to make a list of the things that are in your head but a lot of us never get beyond just putting down the idea itself. We never think to let it run its course in a mind map.
Ellen: Oh, I think this is brilliant.
Laura: Because then you add things to it and then what I love is you have it. Like I have my spiral notebook of mind maps that I come back to and it’s like oh, yeah, you know, that would be perfect, a perfect thought for this thing I have going on. You know, the mind map over here, you add it to the mind map or somebody mentions a resource, you can add it to that mind map so you can collect them over time.
Then what I typically do for my process is then the one that I’m going to act on then I go in and I might do a mind map on the computer so that I can share it with my team. If I’m going to turn it into a bigger, like a longer article then I might put it into a mind map. If I’m going to do a video series then I’ll put it into a mind map on a computer. You know, if it’s going to be something that has more longevity than a blog post, —
Laura: I’ll put it into a mind map because I want to work to it and really add to it online.
Ellen: Very cool. Well Laura, I was going to get into all these ways that we could amp up our creativity but we are out of time so we’re going to have to do this in our next interview.
Laura: Sounds great.
Ellen: Because I can see where we could just really pursue this topic and I really love it. I think this is a great venue for pursuing this idea of creativity in business because we can let this flow rather than having a structured article or anything like this. So are you willing to continue on this way of working and —
Laura: I’d love to continue the conversation and —
Ellen Britt: Yeah, doing a series here because I love this idea. So we’re going to close this out for now but I think for those of you who are listening, I would definitely next time you are faced with a blinking cursor or that blank piece of paper, take out and actual physical piece of paper, some favorite markers and start mind mapping your idea and let us know. We’ll be posting this in a blog so let us know in the comments below what you think about this and what are the tools you’ve used to amp up your creativity and we will be continuing this conversation. Thank you so much, Laura.
Laura: You’re welcome. It was great. Thank you, Ellen.
Ellen: All right. Bye-bye.
This article was originally published on The Future of Ink and is reprinted here in its entirety for our Magnolia Media Network readers.