Some might not think of our jobs as broadcast meteorologists as being very creative. We look at model data, we make a forecast, we go out into the studio and deliver a forecast. Sometimes a surface map might mess with us, or a rain/snow line will need some interpretation, but usually its pretty straight forward. Creativity and good ideas though are like the sprinkles on the donut. They make the good things, great things and draw a viewers attention. It can be a great graphic, or an interesting statistic, or just a different way to describe the weather.
The key is that its different and its good, but those ideas take time to develop. Time is often something broadcast mets don’t have a lot of. But if you’ve ever had a great idea about your weathercast and got a big amount of postive feedback from viewers who took notice, you know that creativity is worth its time. Here are a few suggestions to keep the creativity flowing:
Give yourself some time to play. I think it all starts with the process of looking for those good ideas. When you go fishing, you spend most of the time sitting there and doing nothing. Its the few moments you spending pulling on the reel where you actually catch the fish. However, you can’t just dip the hook in the water and pull the fish out right away. You need to give it time. Its the same way with weather graphics. You might go through a whole bunch of bad tests and trials before you come up with that one weather graphic that is really great. I’ve often found that a good weather graphic is 80% idea, and 20% execution. Getting that idea takes time, but you’ll often need to play around a little bit before that big fish comes along.
Do something completely different. Hopefully there are a lot of things you like to do outside of meteorology. Maybe you read, or run, or grill up a nice rack of ribs. You’ll find inspiration for work in the most unexpected places, without even trying. Also consider continuing your education. Take a class in web development or graphic design. You can take lots of these classes online now, and you might be able to get your station to kick in for part of it. The key is to keep trying new things. You’ll notice connections between what you do for fun, and what you get paid to do at work. Always be open to new ideas that might float your way.
Get plenty of rest and time away from work. This is probably the simplest idea, but often the hardest. You need to be well rested and relaxed. Stress and fatigue are idea killers and will wreck you from coming up with anything before you even start trying. Even more, you won’t want to come up with anything. We all get stuck in a rut, and usually it comes down to work-related worries, and not enough sleep. We think its okay to skimp on our nightly naps in exchange for a few extra hours of DVR, but it catches up to you in the long run, and will no doubt cut down on your creativity. You’ll also find that a little exercise and good food choices can help straighten out your nerves as well.
Watch what others are doing. Sometimes the best way to generate ideas is to take cues from what others are doing. Working in a weather office all day, we’re constantly surrounded by the same people, thinking the same things. There are lots of smart broadcast meteorologists out there, trying lots of great ideas and thanks to the internet, you can watch them in action. I use Newslink.org to get listings of all of the local television stations from across the United States. I’ll often pick out a few stations at random, and see what the weathercasts look like. Sometimes you’ll catch a little inspiration and a new idea will be on its way.
Brainstorming and idea generation are things that develop over time. Once you get into the creative habit, things tend to flow a little easier. If you are interested in learning more about developing creativity check out these books: How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci, A Whack on the Side of the Head, and Six Thinking Hats.
How do you keep the creativity flowing?