Deconstructing the Creative Process with Ben Nesvig

Posted on: 03/02/16, 8:14pm

Do you find yourself wondering how certain individuals always seem to be up on their creative game? Continuously cranking out quality content, testing new ideas, and always in-the-know about the latest technology? We’ve gotten to know Ben Nesvig recently, and quickly realized he fits into this unique category. Curious to learn more about his creative process, we straight up asked him. Read on for a transcript of our conversation.

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Ben Nesvig, a content producer and self-proclaimed “information hoarder,” is always trying new things. “Whether it’s an app, a yoga class, or a sensory deprivation tank, trying new things helps expand my creative palette and provide a new perspective on the world.”

His insatiable curiosity drives him to experiment with new social media platforms and art forms. So far, he has made videos and done a lot of writing. He admits that he’d really like to get better at photography, but the thing he’d really love to try? “Something with virtual reality.”

Creativity is a process. When asked how he gets himself into a creative mindset, Ben said, “It can come from consuming something like a book or video. For example, if I wanted to write something humorous, it can help to prime myself by reading something I find really humorous.”

He also creates swipe files as a repository for ideas. “When I’m doing research to get ideas, I’ll look at competitors to see what people are doing within the industry, but most of the creative ideas are inspired from what other people are doing in other industries. I pull the best ideas into one place along with my observations. Creating this swipe file helps get the creative mind going, inspiring new ideas and combinations.”

“It can be hard to come up with good ideas right on the spot. It’s almost like trying to fall asleep, you can’t really try, you almost just have to let it happen.” That’s why Ben gets a lot of ideas when he’s just holding the concept in the back of his mind, but working on something else. A lot of ideas come to him while he’s doing some unrelated task like washing dishes.

Another thing that helps Ben create unique content is that he brainstorms. “I’ll come up with a lot of ideas in the brainstorming phase, suspending any judgment until later. Analyzing ideas while brainstorming is like driving with one foot on the brakes. Suspending judgment allows me to come up with a lot of ideas, many of them bad, but a few good ones as well.”

In the end, sometimes Ben just sits down and gets to work. “You might not get into the mood to do something until you’re already doing it. Feelings follow behavior.”

He often needs to step away from his brainstormed list before he can act on any one idea. “I like to take a break between brainstorming and selecting the ideas to pursue.” Even if it’s a only few hours away from the project, or even a few days, “almost forgetting what ideas you came up with can help you see things more clearly and give you a fresh perspective.”

When it comes time to sift through his brainstormed ideas, looking for the idea that’s really going to work, he focuses on emotion. “When I come back to look at it, if there’s one that has the strongest emotional reaction, or gets me the most excited, that might be one I’d pick just because if it gets me interested, it’ll likely get someone else interested. I go with whichever has the potential to make the biggest impact.”

After choosing the idea he wants to pursue, he moves on to his next step, “getting a first version done as quickly as possible.” Whether he’s writing a blog post, a script for a video, or sketching out what a photo might look like, the point is not to be too perfect as he goes. “It’s easier to get the bad first draft out of the way quickly, then work to refine it. Great content is made through editing.”

Of course, there’s the inevitable creative wall that all artists eventually hit. When Ben is stuck on a concept, he takes a step back and works on something else entirely. Sometimes he washes more dishes. “It can help to list out what assumptions I’ve made, to question different things to see if there’s a different approach or a different way to execute the idea.” Sometimes, before returning to the project, he goes back to the swipe file to see if there are any ideas from other places he could pull in.

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After seeing that Ben is also a published author, I had to ask him about the Minnesota State Fair. “The people watching and human behavior in general is fascinating. I do love some of the food that’s terrible for you.”

Find out more about Ben’s love affair with the Minnesota State Fair in his book, Minnesota State Fair: Deep Fried Thoughts on Cheese Curds, Carnies, and the Human Condition.

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