The power of metaphor for the media expert

Put creative thinking at work in a creative industry as a freelance journalist. Take what you know best and use it to show why and how your users (or clients) need your expertise. 

While scanning creative thinking methods, one stood out : the metaphorical thinking. My brain works well with metaphors and comparisons, as does my literary background. I have been writing poetry since the age of 9 and published 2 books of modern poetry already.

The power of metaphors or how to bring poetry forward

My poetry garners strength in two ways:

  • It uses strong visual metaphors:

    “human flasks seething with angel smiles”
    “the indefinite veils of this orange sunset swallowing layers of flesh metal and drifting thoughts”

  • It uses strong emotional metaphors:

    “do not look into my eyes tonight they became nocturnal dwellings for the demon of ghastly love”

    “what hands can do to beating hearts how words can punch into the very core of our soft beings”

Having learnt to use metaphors early on as a poet, I transferred this skill into journalism. This happened 11 years ago, when I started to report on culture for a major Romanian newspaper. One of the strongest metaphorical images I used, quoted then on different news websites, described the crowd at the very first Depeche Mode concert in Bucharest. I wrote that people at the concert reacted as a sea of human corrals by waving their arms in the air to the music.

First thing I had learnt though about metaphors in the media was how not to use them. A piece of journalism is not a piece of literature. Metaphors for the media need to be clear, sharp and adapted to the users and to the publishing environment. 

Learning from the creative thinking specialists

Nowadays I am learning how to do media business, and it has proved to be much more fun than imagined. Possibly the same as metaphors in the media.

Metaphorical thinking is creative thinking which helps express complex ideas and concepts by using simple, direct, more accessible terms and concepts. Michael Michalko, who theorises on metaphorical thinking, says on his website:

“Creativity, no matter which of its many definitions you favor, requires looking at the world in a different way and trying fresh approaches to problems. An easy way to shake up your thinking is to think metaphorically. A metaphor is a figure of speech in which a word or phrase that means one thing is used to describe an object or idea to which it is not literally applicable.”

Former officer in the US Army, Michalko published a number of books on creative thinking, such as:

  • Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Business Creativity
  • ThinkPak: A Brainstorming Card Deck
  • Creative Thinkering: Putting Your Imagination to Work

Before becoming a best selling author, Michael Michalko worked with a team of NATO intelligence specialists in researching and categorising creative thinking methods. Later on, the CIA used Michalko’s research.

Mesopotamia or how to use an old tool to create a new system

Thinking business, I saw the Birmingham Faith Map project similar to the early irrigation systems in Mesopotamia. In this case, the old tool would be whatever they used for digging. The new system was the actual canals, water basins and ditches they used to water their crops.

First, watch this short video on what the situation was in ancient Mesopotamia:

Why did I see working with the faith map similar to creating an irrigation system in such a specific geographical context?

We could easily compare faith in Birmingham to the abundant waters of the two rivers: Tigris and Euphrates. With the sheer number of groups and organisations, the city presents such richness in faith and spiritual life that a simple map cannot make use of completely. The water (the abundance) will not reach the whole of the agricultural land (local communities), while it can easily drown some of them. In order to make it flow through the whole land which can grow crops, a functional system is needed.

Hopefully comparing myself with the ancient engineers will not be taken as an act of complete lack of modesty. As a media and faith specialist, I can engineer a system which would channel the abundance of faith in Birmingham and make it reach the fertile soil of its different local communities.

All I need to do next is test this plan and make it work. Just like in the old times in the “land between two rivers”: Mesopotamia.


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