Working in a creative industry is a lot of fun! But in these “unprecedented times”, staying creative and being able to innovate can be tough.

I was thrilled to welcome Kirsty Hulse to OutSpeech. For anyone who’s not aware of Kirsty (which is basically no one these days!), her career has spanned digital PR and agency ownership, most recently moving into the world of neuro-based coaching. Kirsty is loved across our industry for her ability to bring positivity and inspiration through everything she does.

I spoke to Kirsty about how to stay creative when you’re just not feeling it… Have a listen on the link below!

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Kirsty runs Roar Training, a neuro based coaching business. You can find her easily all over the internet – I recommend following her over on Instagram where she’s always posting positive and actionable tips, and Twitter where she does the same!

Introducing Kirsty Hulse

Laura
Hello, everyone, I’m Laura and welcome to Out speech which is the digital podcast where we talk about digital PR, SEO, link building, marketing and much, much more. Now today’s episode has a slightly different flavor. As we continue to navigate these so called Strange Times, we’re faced with so many challenges new and old from both professional and personal perspective. And that’s why I’m absolutely delighted that my guest has agreed to come on and share some of her time and her absolute wealth of knowledge with us.

So Kirsty Hulse is joining me today. I’ve known Kirsty for many years now from her time delivering digital PR and SEO campaigns herself through her own agency. And more recently, as she’s moved into coaching, building an incredible brand based on honesty, openness and sharing, I think it’s fair to say So, welcome to the podcast Kirsty.

Kirsty Hulse
Hello, that sounds lovely, thank you.

Laura Hampton
Building a brand based on honesty and openness, I think that’s been the real key thing to your success, particularly in recent months, I’m sure that most people who are listening to this follow you as I do on Twitter and on Instagram, and I think you are just incredibly warm and open. And you just seem to be willing to share it all with us, which is so refreshing.

Kirsty
Sometimes I just can’t know, I just thought I don’t know what it is, I feel like I’m just genetically built to I get incredibly anxious if I feel as though I’m not being all of myself at all. So fortunately, that seems to resonate with some people, not with others, but that’s okay.

Laura Hampton
I love that though you use the term resonates quite a lot. And I think that’s, that’s particularly strong, because it does, it is about how things kind of speak to each other and how we’re all kind of operating, I suppose on these these vibrations and our own frequencies. And when you find somebody who’s who’s on a similar frequency to you, it’s, it’s empowering to be able to learn from that person. And has that been something that’s been quite important to you quite a conscious effort or is it more like you say, just naturally happens.

Kirsty
It’s just naturally happened. I am, I’ve always been very careful to not self censor. And I, particularly when I was, you know, working in SEO and PR, and I was always a bit less sensitive. I was always a bit less like, however, you might archetype defined professional, I was a bit less than that than others. And I’ve always been a bit like that, you know, I’ve got loads of older brothers, they’re all like that, I think it’s just like, family trait, really. So I’ve always been very mindful of, I don’t think good stuff comes out.

When we heavily censor ourselves, I think we shrink, I think we don’t shine in the best way, I think we get worried to share our best ideas. And I think I’ve just become more and more of that is like, I’ve become more confident in myself. So I imagine this, this is just this is a trajectory. Now what we’re just gonna get more, more more.

Learning not to censor yourself

Laura Hampton
I love what you say about when we try and censor ourselves, we really shrink.

I manage the digital PR team here at Impression. And I work every day and in this very creative industry. And I do see so many scenarios where people are maybe changing themselves according to what they perceive to be better, or according to what do you try and be something that they’re not that can be really stifling.

Kirsty
It can be stifling. And it also I think just takes up a lot of cognitive processing. Like our brain has a finite amount of energy, especially, you know, if you think about these times, and all of the things we’re constantly having to navigate and think about. And then suddenly you’re saying to someone, like come up with these ideas, deliver these campaigns, get out of bed, reply to your WhatsApp groups, do your laundry, keep your life together.

Oh, and by the way, you also have to constantly second guess everything you’re always saying and keep sense checking it with yourself. And we go through this neurological process. And I think even just in terms of the energy that we have to give to things, I think it’s really depleting.

And, you know, I work with 1000s of people in similar kind of ways. And like 99.99999% of those are good people, kind people, empathetic people trying to do some good work. And if we lean more into that, lean more into like, how you help people, how you like to be kind if we lean more into that, then I think we can’t make mistakes. I really believe if you’re coming from a place of deep service, you can’t make mistakes.

Understanding neuroscience

Laura Hampton
For anyone who’s listening, you mentioned a couple of the practices behind your work relating to kind of neuroscience, just in case anyone isn’t aware of the style of coaching that you take. Could you give us a brief overview of what that looks like?

Kirsty
Yeah. So when I mean, I’ve always been interested in the brain and things. And when I first trained to be a coach, there’s like lots of different routes, you can go down. And so I went what’s known as like a brain, a brain based route.

And so there’s something called organizational neuroscience, which is really cool, I think, because I have to add the I think, at the end, because I can’t objectively state that organizational neuroscience is really cool. But I can subjectively state that I think it is.

And it’s basically the practice of it’s only really the past 10-15 years, we’ve known much about our brains. And so it’s really the practice of taking findings from neuroscience and applying them into professional contexts.

If anyone’s interested in this, I guess the pioneer of it, there’s a guy called David Rock, who does lots of work and lots of research in this space. And it’s, it’s really insightful, and really helpful, especially when it comes to creativity, which we’re going to talk about collaboration, confidence, communication, of the things being able to see.

Nerves are normal

Laura
There is that balance between the social influences that we have externally, but also that recognition that so much of it is happening within us. And I think when we’ve had you come and deliver training for the Impression team, one of the things that really resonated with us was this idea that there are processes happening, that you are not necessarily at fault for it’s it’s perfectly normal, you know, if you’re having to do public speaking, for example, it’s normal to feel scared and nervous. And it’s normal to have those adrenal responses. But recognizing that in yourself allows you to then take control

Kirsty
Yes, absolutely. And that’s kind of what I was just thinking, actually. But, you know, for me, talking about the research, or the science behind the work I do.

For me, it’s only purpose, it’s only purpose that it serves is to acknowledge that a lack of confidence, or a struggling to come up with new ideas, or a lack of motivation isn’t an individual failing, it’s actually just a genetic, everyday, normal thing. And I think when we come from that place of this is, okay, this is normal, then it’s significantly easier to overcome and to soften the edges of that, then when we approached and going, Oh, I’m not feeling very confident today. That’s my fault. That’s my problem.

And so for me, the reason I pin everything in this research is, for the main reason, it helps us learn about what are essentially can be quite vulnerable topics, and learn about them from almost an abstracted standpoint.

Tips for people working in creative industries

Laura
You’ve mentioned creativity and motivation and the pressure to be innovative.

What would you say are the main tips (and I appreciate you can’t kind of fix everything within the space of a 20 minute podcast), but what would you say are your main tips for people working in a creative industry? Who are maybe feeling very flat at the moment who maybe get a lot of their inspiration from being outside being with other people and can’t at the moment?

Kirsty
So maybe I’ll give two specific things. So I think the first thing is just to reiterate what we just said, if you’re fairly if you’re in a creative industry, and you’re feeling flat, I want the first thing that you think is to know how normal that is. It’s not even a big deal. You know, it’s just we can overcome it.

And actually, what we tend to do is, if we’re feeling these things, we tend to panic about the fact we’re feeling them, and that kind of extrapolates them. So I think the first thing to do with anyone who is struggling to be innovative or have fresh ideas or whatever that looks like for you is please do know that you’re not alone.

And this is a very normal natural occurrence, especially in these times. I think that’s a really important first step. The second thing is it’s more of a it’s a it’s easier said than done. But once you can make this shift this mental shift, then it can have a radical difference on how we I don’t know have creative ideas. And that is that so much research shows us that we’re most creative.

Okay, there’s a professor called Vincent Walsh. And he’s at UCL University College London. Before COVID times, he had a lab where you could volunteer, and you could go into his lab. And he would also let your brain waves for you to be more creative. Like it’s wild. But you can’t do that. But so he says, he has this lovely quote, which I use quite a lot. And he says, true creativity happens offline. And we know this, we know this anecdotally, you know, if I say to you, Laura, where do you have your best ideas?

Laura Hampton
In the shower or on a run.

Kirsty
Exactly. Walking, doing the gardening, like playing with the kids, whatever it is. And the reason for this is our creative ideas. They’re inherently neurologically quiet.

Because, you know, in the brain all a new idea is, is when we take two different signups at connections and connect it for the first time, in order for us. And that’s when we get that, you know, when you have that good idea, and you always get that like, aha moment, it feels like this burst of energy, right? Yes, that those things now in order for our brain, to hear those, there has to be stillness, and there has to be quiet.

Because if not, if we’re like running, running, running, running, and so that’s why we tend to have our best ideas when we’re in the shower, when we’re falling asleep. That’s when we go into something called theta brainwaves. And theta brainwaves is when we can be more creative when we hear those creative ideas.

So if we’re trying to be more creative, it sounds very counterintuitive. But that’s just because of how we’ve been conditioned. If we’re trying to be more creative, genuinely, it’s about finding the time and I recognize in professional environments, corporate environments, especially agency environments, this may feel easier than said than done. But if you take that hour out, to go for a walk to go for a run, that isn’t time getting in the way of your productivity, that’s actually really the only way you can maintain it. So it’s about acknowledging that shift.

If you work in a creative industry, you need to give yourself time to come up with ideas. And the way we come up through ideas is actually through relaxation, through alpha and beta brainwaves, like beta brainwaves is when we’re like going when we’re doing. They’re very fast. They’re very, like sharp and pointy, and in there, all of this richness, this newness, all of these creative ideas, they got, they got lost and all of that chatter. Does that resonate.

I probably go one step further and say the run is the work. The run is the work, it’s the same thing. Your brain is churning out ideas all the time, all the time, and you will be able to hear them. So we hear the idea is neurologically speaking when when we’re in the shower, but we’re generating them.

So I had to do some brainstorming on Monday actually come up with some creative ideas for clients. It’s been a while. And I was right, I need to come up with a list of creative ideas. So what I’m going to do, and this is my process, it will be different for everybody. What I do is I put my earphones in, like I’m doing now and I go for a walk and I voice record myself just talking about it. Okay. Because we that’s when we can remove the pressure, I just don’t, for me at least subjective. I’m not gonna have a good idea sitting in front of my desk, I’m just not, it’s just not that space for me. And also we cognitively associate places with things.

That’s why researchers always say like, try if you can to avoid working in bed, because you cognitively associate then bed not as a place of rest is a place of work. And so for me, when I’m sitting at my desk, I’ve associated it as a place of admin, a place of like things I perhaps don’t love, like emails, finance staff. And so then again, like, neurologically speaking, it is going to be harder for me to be creative when I’m sitting in an environment that I don’t associate with creativity.

That’s not supported by a guy called Robert Epstein. And he’s brilliant actually. So Robert Epstein is a Harvard professor. He spent 20 years researching the science of creativity. And he has a book called The Big Cummings got an awful name and an awful cover. But it’s called like the big bumper book of creativity games or something. But for those people who work in Creative Industries, and are looking to develop this skill of creativity, because it is a skill, like everything else, that I would recommend getting this book and games and playing them either on your own or in teams, again, imagine a time when we can do that it’d be wonderful.

Coping with industry pressures

As an industry as well, is that something I found personally through the past few months is that there’s a bit of a split, I suppose, in what I see appearing on social media. And there’s a bit of a divide between people kind of celebrating all of their successes and all we feel a million links this month, and we’ve been in all these publications, isn’t it wonderful? versus the other people who are saying, you know what, it’s okay to be struggling, it’s, it’s okay, to not be okay. And it seems quite difficult to find a middle ground between those two things. It’s almost like I’ve got half of my brain saying, be amazing, like everyone else has been amazing. And the other half going, No, it’s okay to not be 100%. Have you got any thoughts on that?

Kirsty
Yeah, so the first thing that pops into my head is I think it’s so important, so important to stay in our own lanes. And what I mean by that is, we have so many normal natural human tendencies for self comparison.

So people will often say to me, because the how can we make it so that social media isn’t damaging? Isn’t social media necessarily that’s damaging? We can curate that into quite an inspiring place, but potentially is damaging? Is our predisposition to compare ourselves based on what we’re seeing on social media? Does that make sense? Yes, so I think the first thing is to get into a habit. And again, there’s so there’s so so much easier said than done.

But it’s all just a thought process, you know, we tend to think of habits as actions, but habits are also thought processes. So kind of get into the habit of, perhaps when you see someone sharing, like, Oh, we got 300 links in this campaign, rather than using that as a way to feel you’re not good enough.

Try to use it as a way to draw inspiration from it. And a quick, easy way to do that is to think feel, as much as you can have people excited for that other person.

Another thing to acknowledge is that social media is a sales tool. It’s a sales tool. And so I can absolutely resonate with and understand those business owners who shout about the successes of their campaigns, and perhaps don’t at the same time necessarily shout about their failures. Because everybody’s just trying to make money, right, we’re all just here doing our best trying to feed our kids feed our families make money.

So if maybe someone’s listening to this and perhaps feels frustrated, or irritated, or, I don’t know, feels real or true or not authentic by people, sharing successes, but not sharing losses. Try again, to just remember that, you know, we’re all just trying our best we’re all just trying to make make a bit of money. And actually, I think when we approach things from compassion, then it becomes a lot easier. Is this resonating?

Managing creative teams

Laura Hampton
Away from the individual perspective then and thinking about anyone who’s listening to the podcast, who’s maybe like myself, they’re leading a team or, or they’re leading a business or, or they’re, I don’t know, maybe they’re partnering with an agency for the first time and they really want to help that agency harness their creativity, I don’t know. But is there anything that we can be doing on an organizational level to help the individuals within our team feel better and more creative through this time?

Kirsty
So I think as leaders, I think it is our job to try and reduce reactive work as much as possible. And I, I highlight as much as possible there because we’re living in realities of and so last, you know, ad hoc requests, requests might come in, priorities are constantly shifting.

And I think when we’re leading teams or helping other people be more creative, I think it is our job to protect people’s time to reinforce what I said earlier in terms of if we’re always working reactively that like it The moment like quick little react, I’ve got to do this now got to do this now. That is, that’s a very difficult environment for us to be creative in.

So I think it’s about trying to make sure we’re scheduling our time, we’re creating space. And acknowledging, again, that this is easier said than done. But if we can slowly start to shift away from reactive working, we get more done. We just do it in a slightly different way, we feel less stressed, but we’re kind of working more from like a flow state. And so I think the first thing is to try and limit wherever possible, obviously, we want, you know, sometimes we’re going to have reactive campaigns, we’re going to new strike, things like that, but for them, but we really do need to make sure we’re scheduling time to do nothing.

So me, for example, I have an hour scheduled in my diary every single day one between one and two, not today, because that’s the time now. But generally, where I do absolutely nothing, nothing. And when I say do nothing, I am actually quite doing loads, my brain is doing loads. And I think it’s important that we create that cultural acceptance that staring out of the window can be just as an I would argue, probably more productive than yet another meeting. And so it’s about finding that time, or finding that process so that we can just create a lot more space in our day. And we do that through prioritization.

And another thing that’s worth remembering is one thing I learned, particularly when I was running an agency, I had a lot of team, I was working with big brands that people will wait. People wait. And so we might see an email come in, and immediately we’re like, ah, I’ve got to reply to this email. Now we don’t. We don’t people will wait. I checked my emails in the morning. That’s it. I checked them once a day in the morning. I don’t look at them again. Because they dick about with my schedule if I do. So it’s acknowledging that everyone’s busy, people will wait.

Things are nowhere near as intense as they can sometimes feel like we need to be doing good jobs. We need to be having emotional responses to our work. But this is PR. We’re all right. It’s okay. We’re all right. And I think it’s that there’s a technique. I stole this from CBT, not stole, I borrowed I took inspiration from from CBT. And it’s called distancing. And I use this a lot.

And that is in these moments when we find ourselves getting stressed and being reactive, saying yourself, how will I feel about this in a week? How will I feel about this in a month? And that can just really soften the edges sometimes of getting really drawn in and sucked into almost this working in this like primal panic mode, if that makes sense. Yeah.

Again, that primal panic when we get into that, like, Ah, I’m really stressed, I’m pretty tense. Acknowledging that, if you do feel like that, this isn’t there’s no judgment, no one’s at fault here. This is our build, and we’re in pressurized environments. But also, at the same time acknowledging that that is not the best environment for creativity.

Laura Hampton
Absolutely, and giving ourselves that space, I think is such a lovely phrase, because we can, we can take ownership and I think, especially with kind of working from home, and we can be a bit more flexible with our hours, we really can make the time just to, as you say, do nothing and give ourselves space to recharge.

Kirsty
Yes, yes, yes, yes. Yeah. And, and just acknowledging that as we’re doing that we are working. It’s not, it’s not like even language around stuff is quite judgy the way we talk about language like slowing down, stopping, taking time out, time out from walks, you know, when we say I’m taking time out, we define work as like the natural state, and then losing time out from it.

So I think Yeah, just remembering that your brain is working 24 seven, and actually one of the and this is like research bases, lots of research that supports this, you want to solve a problem, be innovative, come up with a new idea, write it down before you go to bed, sleep on it. And then journal about the moment you wake up, then there’ll be a lot of richness in that and it’s a lot easier than sitting in front of a computer trying to strain your brain to come up with an idea just do it in my sleep.

Laura
i love that

Kirsty
I’m joking but I really do do that. I need to come up with a new program or new name for something or I’m writing at the moment I need to come up with a new chapter so I’ll you know go Okay, I need to solve this right out. Okay, thank you, Brian. Go to sleep. Keep a notepad in my bed. The moment my eyes open, I don’t reach my phone. I don’t do scroll.

The temptation is that of course it is humans. But I reach my notepad. I just kind of jot about it for 1520 minutes, go back to it later. And we’ll be a lot of rich ideas in there because that’s where we have our ideas.

Laura Hampton
I love that. So what you’re saying is that sleep is s billable work.

Kirsty
Yeah, very productive in that time. That’s exactly what I’m saying.

Laura Hampton
Now if my team’s listening, I’m very excited to see you putting on naps and your time sheets and all sorts.

But now I 100% agree with you and all joking aside, I, I do find that sometimes especially if I’m doing ideation, the best thing for me to do is to stop trying to do it and go and do something else. So I love that you’re saying that, and Kirsty.

I could speak to you for hours and hours and hours, as I’m sure everyone says to you, because your passion is so clear, but also your knowledge is just incredible. You know, so, so much and all of it is so, so valuable. But I’m also conscious of your time. So we’ll wrap up but thank you so, so much for sharing your time and your thoughts with us. If anybody for some reason has maybe been living under a rock or something and hasn’t started following you already on Instagram or Twitter, can you let us know where we can find you?

Kirsty
My name is Kirsty house and I’m extremely findable on the internet.

Laura Hampton

Head of Digital PR

Head of Digital PR at Impression working with colleagues and clients to deliver link acquisition campaigns that support SEO visibility and wider marketing goals. Regular speaker at industry conferences and contributor to industry publications. In my spare time, I jump out of planes.

Laura has specialist knowledge in Digital PR and Content Marketing.