The Newspaper Trick

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In this video, I share a trick that I used to use back when I was writing monolog jokes for "The Tonight Show" and I needed a quick, creative idea. You don't have to be a joke writer for this trick to work for you, too!

If you're a video person, I lay it all out in the video below. If reading is more your thing, skip the video and hop straight to the transcript below!

Hey there. I'm talking to you.

Bill Stainton here with Turning Creativity into Money™, and today I want to tell you about a technique that I used to use when I needed that extra shot of creativity back when I was writing monologue jokes for my own TV show and for The Tonight Show.

I call it The Newspaper Trick. And I call it The Newspaper Trick because it involves a newspaper. Okay, big surprise there.

Now, for you kids, this is a newspaper! Maybe you've seen them, they still, they still make them. On the newsstand, so you may have wondered, "What is that? why would anybody buy that?" Well, that was our version of the internet way back when.

So here's what I used to do.

See, when you're writing, when you're writing monologue jokes, occasionally you just kind of, like, hit the wall. And you just, you can't think of anything, but you've got a quota, you've got to write more jokes. So, the trick I used to do, The Newspaper Trick, was this.

See, newspapers come in different sections. Here's the front section. And look—there's a sports section! And there will also be sections for entertainment, and cooking, and local news, and things like that. So here's the trick I would do.

I would find a story, any story, from one section of the newspaper, and then I'd find a completely different story, from a completely different section of the newspaper, and force myself to write a joke that connects those two stories. Now the joke wouldn't always be gold, but it would always get me thinking. It would always spark more ideas.

Because now you're forcing yourself to see things differently, you're forcing yourself to make connections, and that's what creativity, that's what innovation ultimately is all about.

Now, how can you apply this to your work? Because I'm guessing that your work does not involve writing monologue jokes for The Tonight Show—I could be wrong. But assuming that you're not writing monologue jokes for The Tonight Show, how can you apply The Newspaper Trick to your work?

Well, first of all, you don't need an actual newspaper. You don't need to go out and get one of these, because, we've got this thing called the internet. And there are articles on the internet.

So here's what I want you to do—here's your assignment for this week.

Find an article on the internet. I don't care what it's about, as long as it is not about your work. As long as it is not related to what you do for a living. Maybe it's something that you're interested in as a hobby, maybe it's something that you have no interest in whatsoever. But find an article that has nothing to do with your work, read it, and then ask yourself this question:

How can I apply this to my situation?

How can I apply what's in this article—maybe it's the entire article, maybe it's the gist of the entire article, maybe it's just one little idea or one sentence, something in that article—how can I take something from this article and apply it to my work, in a way that moves the needle.

It's all about connecting those dots. This is, this is your version of The Newspaper Trick. Finding something that has nothing to do with your work, and then applying it to your work. That's your homework for this, for this week.

And by the way, don't make it just this week. Make it a habit. Any time you come across something new: an article, conversation, anything—ask yourself that question. How can I apply this to my work in a way that moves the needle. That's turning creativity into money.

I'm Bill Stainton, and I'll be back next time with more ideas of how you can Turn Creativity into Money™.
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About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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