How Psychological Distance Makes You A More Creative Writer

How are you at writing creatively?

I’m not talking about creative writing, which most people associate with fiction. I mean writing that gets your point across in a fresh and unusual way.

If you want your copy to catch and hold the attention of your prospect, it pays to be unique. It also makes you stand out as a writer and shows you can think outside the box … and beyond the template.

Being super creative also makes it easier to come up with ideas. This increases your value to clients.

Today, I’m going to show you one of the most effective ways to boost your creativity. It’s an unusual, yet simple trick. Practicing this skill regularly will strengthen your ability to think creatively at a moment’s notice.

Can Creativity Be Learned?

First off, don’t worry about whether you’re the “creative type.”

A lot of us grow up believing some people are natural creative geniuses while the rest of us are … well, normal. Fortunately, creativity can be learned.

Plenty of psychological studies have demonstrated creativity is often situational. Just a few years ago, social scientists from Indiana University at Bloomington confirmed a new approach. They showed that increasing your psychological distance from a problem (so, making it feel farther away), actually increases creativity.

In other words, ideas are influenced by your proximity to a problem. That’s often why it helps to get advice from others when you face a dilemma. Their different perspective makes it easy to offer solutions you can’t come up with yourself.

Asking for input from others is valuable, absolutely. But, it’s not always possible. That’s why it’s enormously helpful to know how to adjust your psychological distance in relation to your problems. When you can do this, coming up with creative solutions gets a whole lot easier.

Understanding Psychological Distance

Psychological distance has to do with anything that isn’t happening right here and now. It’s based on the construal level theory in social psychology, which classifies your thoughts as either abstract or concrete.

If something feels very close to you, you tend to think about it in concrete terms. If something feels far, you usually think about it in a more abstract way.

Take strawberries, for example. If you had a bowl of fresh strawberries sitting in front of you, you’d notice they were red, and that each fruit was about the size of a golf ball. You could probably smell them, and your mouth might even water at the thought of eating one. These are all concrete observations.

A more abstract approach is to think about strawberries grown in California. Doing so might bring to mind whole fields of strawberries with harvesters bent over the rows, searching for ripe fruit.

Maybe you’d also picture the corrugated cardboard boxes that hold the berries, or you’d think of the trucks that cart the fruit off to the supermarket. You may even think of foods made from strawberries, such as strawberry jam and strawberry shortcake.

How To Apply This Easy Technique To Your Web Writing

Psychological distance is created when you think about a problem in a different way than you normally would. One approach, as mentioned, is to look at something from another person’s point of view. Or, you can adjust the time frame around something.

For example, let’s say you want to put up a professional website, but you’re having trouble writing your own copy (a common problem for web writers). You want to sound qualified but not braggish, and you’re just not sure how to start.

So, you visit the Wealthy Web Writer forum. You share a little about yourself and ask your fellow colleagues for advice.

Before you know it, you get a flood of input from other web writers. “Highlight your experience from your last job — that’s a great selling point!” says one. And, “Start off with that story you shared about why you’re your own prospect … what a great lead-in.”

Before you know it, you have enough content ideas to write your entire website.

The trick comes in separating yourself from the problem. In this case, the problem is that you have a lot riding on having a successful website, especially if you plan to use it as your number one client generation tool.

But, an outsider’s perspective is to just see you for you.

The same is true when it comes to adjusting the time frame around something. If you’re just starting out as a freelancer, you may find it hard to write website copy because you don’t feel like you have enough experience.

So, picture today one year from now. Assume you’ve worked on several web copy campaigns in the months between then and now. Imagine how much you’ve learned, and picture the testimonials you’ve picked up — not to mention the paychecks.

Then, sit down and write your website copy — but picture yourself writing it on that day one year from today. You’ll be surprised at how freely the words flow, and at how much more creative you feel.

The Relaxed Approach To High-Stress Projects … With A Payoff

I’ve experienced psychological distance without even realizing it. You probably have, too.

For me, it happened years ago when I was applying for college. I’d narrowed my list down to a few schools, but had my eye on one in particular — Duke.

My parents, however, hoped I would apply to Rice University. It wasn’t a place I was seriously considering. But, to humor them, I filled out an application.

Beyond the essays and standard admission forms, the Rice application had an unusual question. On the page was a large plain square — black outline, blank inside. Next to the square, the instructions read, “Put something in the box that really matters to you.”

Since I was nonchalant about the application, I went to town on the project. I didn’t hem or haw over what to do — I just had fun. I started with glue and string and construction paper, and then pasted in dried leaves.

I fixed the leaves so they’d pop up from their accordion paper fold-out when you pulled on the string. I even scribbled out a poem about fall and nature and configured that to pop up as well.

Had I been more serious about my application, I would have stressed about that darn box for weeks. I definitely would have had trouble deciding what to put inside.

And, I most decidedly would not have written a poem! (I am not a poet.)

My detachment from the project made it easy to think outside the boundaries of what I normally would have thought acceptable. It became easy to be unconventional and let my creative faculties ride.

As luck would have it, my nonchalant burst of creativity paid off. I got accepted with such a sweet package of perks that I chose Rice in the end.

Remove Your Angst About Any Web-Writing Challenge

When you ramp up your creativity, you’re tons more likely to stand out as a web writer. You’ll also find it easier to get started on projects in general.

Along with that, you’ll find it easier to come up with content ideas while bypassing the stress and worry that mounts when you work on critical projects.

Best of all, using psychological distance as your secret trick to tackling problems is not only rewarding, it’s very simple to do.

In the end, it’s a win-win-win: More productivity, more creativity, and less anxiety overall.

This article, How Psychological Distance Makes You A More Creative Writer, was originally published by Wealthy Web Writer.

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Published: August 24, 2011

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