Sign The Guestbook
View The Guestbook
Archived Guestbook
Submit An Article
Staff List
Privacy Policy


Archived Weekly Features
The Big Picture
Rebecca "Becky" Coates Nee, a veteran TV news anchor/reporter, is a professional life/career coach. Check out her website at to take the coachability test, subscribe to her free "Beyond the Box" newsletter and to find out if you're an adrenaline junkie.

How to Be Creative On a Deadline
By Rebecca Coates Nee

Have you ever noticed that your most creative thoughts don't come when you
need them? Mine usually arrive while I'm out running or just waking up in a
pre-caffeine daze. When that happens, I keep repeating the idea in my mind
over and over like a mantra until I can reach the nearest keyboard or

Forcing creativity, on the other hand, seldom works. If you're trying to
write a story while talking on your cellphone with one eye on your watch and
the other on your photographer who just took a wrong turn, don't expect
Emmy-winning results.

One of the most creative reporters I ever worked with used to come back from
a shoot, sit in the break room, eat a sandwich, do crossword puzzles and
throw marshmallows at the ceiling before going near his computer. His
behavior always sent the tape editor and producer running for their Tums, but
they kept quiet because they knew the reporter would eventually craft a
masterful script - just in time.

That pattern never worked for me. I could never eat, let alone work crossword
puzzles, while a deadline loomed over me. But authors Richard Carlson and
Joseph Bailey might say that the marshmallow-throwing reporter was able to be
so creative because he took the time to switch gears before writing.

In their book, Slowing Down to the Speed of Life, Carlson and Bailey
distinguish between two types of thought: analytical and free flowing. The
analytical mode is the computer processor of our brain, storing the stuff
that keeps us awake at night, the data and details of our lives that we
replay over and over in our minds.

The free-flowing mode is quite the opposite. It brings us new information and
thoughts in the moment. These thoughts easily come to us as inspired, out of
the blue ideas. "Thinking takes no effort," write the authors. "In fact,
effort will block our flow thinking and place us right back in the processing

Athletes who are operating at peak performance are in the zone of the
free-flowing mode. If you've ever felt you nailed a live shot - you were
probably in that mode, too.

The problem, say Carlson and Bailey, is you can't be in both the analytical
and free-flowing modes at the same time. So, if you're doing a live shot and
your producer is saying something in your ear and your photographer is
motioning wildly to someone behind you - it is difficult to stay in the free
flowing mode.

While most of us spend much of our time in the analytical mode, the authors
say we can teach ourselves to switch to the free-flowing mode no matter
what's going on around us. They cite the experience of Will Steger, an Arctic
explorer who was once trapped in deep snow at -60 degrees. Steger began to
worry, which cost him sleep and without sleep, he lost energy.

Finally, he realized that his worry could actually kill him. So he started to
try and enjoy the situation! He began noticing the beauty of the stars
overhead and concentrated on resting his mind, clearing his thoughts so he
would have energy to survive. By remaining in the free-flowing mode, Steger
was able to find his way out of danger and back to safety.

Next time you're searching for the right words or ideas, try throwing a few
marshmallows at the ceiling. You may be surprised at what comes back down
with them.