Today’s blog entry is guest written by Kristin Neperud Merz of where she has been designing, branding and doing all things creative since 2000. Kristin also serves Catalyst Ranch as a Creative Strategist and is our designer of all things digital. You’ll be able to see some of her fabulous work in our website redesign which we will be unveiling soon! She is also the writer of  “Unscribbling: The Art of Problem Solving and Fulfilling Your Ideas.” 

Tuning into Your Nigglings and Jinglings with Creative Projects (and Life) 

by Kristin Neperud Merz

kristinneperudmerzsmallAs some of you know, I am the luckiest designer in the world – I get to do design for Catalyst Ranch! And not to rub it in all you other designer’s faces, but I will confirm what you guessed, that, “Yes! Yes, they are the BEST CLIENT EVER!” That said, let’s get back to the point…

Recently I sat down with the marketing team at Catalyst Ranch to discuss upcoming changes to their websites. In that meeting, an idea was tossed out as a possible change to one of the page’s layouts. To which Eva replied, “That would take care of something that was bugging me. I really wanted…” (I’d give you details, but that would ruin the surprise when the site goes live.) But her statement got me thinking, “What niggling and jingling thoughts are we possibly ignoring and how do we get better at paying attention to them?”

In all endeavors, especially creative ones, we can not ignore those small signals that are trying to steer us in a different direction. Whether it is your sub-conscious, your innate psychic abilities, your higher self, or your muses* speaking to you, it doesn’t matter, what matters is that the signals are there and there to help you.

In order to really create something amazing, whether it be life or a creative project, we need to learn how to:

1. Pick up on the signals

2. Trust the signals

3. Do something about them

1. Pick up on your unique signals

These nigglings and jinglings aren’t always “voices” in our heads. Sometimes, for me, when I am designing or writing and something is not working quite right, my eyes will close and my head will literally turn away from the computer.  It is like I can’t even force myself to look at the creative product if it isn’t right. One of my friends calls it his signals his “Spidey-senses” and he gets hot flashes if he is about to do something that is… well, stupid. We all will have our own way of getting these emotional clues, the more you are aware of the ways your clues come, the better off you will be.

Look at your senses as possible ways that you might be receiving some hints and tips. You could receive your signals by:

– A Knowing

You don’t know why exactly, but you just know something is off or on. Usually, if I have an “It’s not right” moment and I don’t know why I am feeling that, it’s a good clue to relook at the objectives of the project (or life’s desires) and make sure you are still on track.

– Hearing

Sometimes you will hear a voice that says, “This isn’t working.” Or, “Yeah, now this is working.” (Don’t be surprised if it sounds like your mother.) I often find this hearing jingling shows up when I am talking with someone. So I am hearing and internal hearing at the same time. (Though my inner voice seems a tad harsher and says sarcastic things like, “yeah, right!” and “I. don’t. think. so.” – alerting me to all kinds of things.)

– Vision

Do your eyes keep going back to something or are they avoiding an area? Take a closer look at that area and see if something needs to change. Don’t deny it creative peeps, you know your eyes are telling you something when this happens.

– Kinesthetic

Does your body movB4NigglingsJigglingse away from or become drawn to something? Ah, just like being on a date, watch where your body is leading you!

– A Feeling

Need to make a decision on which way to go with something? How do the different ideas that you are coming up with make you feel? This can be especially helpful if you have a choice to make. Think about each option and be aware of your feelings. Does one option excite you? Does one make you feel weighed down? Logic may be taking you one way, but if I were you, I’d trust that feeling instead.

Many times these clues are paired together. So pay attention for how your signals come your way. For the more aware of your signals you are, the faster you will pick them up in the future. (Which will save you time and ego bruises later.)

2. Trust the signals or ignore the signals at your own peril

Over the years, I have started to trust these feelings, but… I must admit, I don’t always listen to them. Sometimes I am short on time and just trying to get something done. I’ll know, “this isn’t quite right, but it’s not bad either… maybe ____ will like it.” Those statements are  me totally lying to myself and trying to get away with something.

Sometimes it works, but more often than not this comes back to bit me in the ass and someone always points out the thing that was bugging me anyway. Either a client will say, “Yeah, I’m not liking this…” Or, “This isn’t exactly what I wanted.” Or, my writer’s group will point out, “This section just isn’t making sense…”

Duh! Just when you thought you were so brilliant you could get by with something half-assed, a reality check comes along… and you looked like an idiot in the process. (This isn’t the only reason this can happen, but you get my point.)

Instead to dismissing the niggling or jingling, I should have trusted it, paid attention to it, and taken the time to fix the issue right there. It would have saved me time and embarrassment later.

3. Now do something about them!

Whether you pay attention to the signal in the first place, or have to have someone point it out to you later, be thankful for your nigglings and jinglings. They are feedback pushing you to something better. What could be bad about that?

If you feel your “spidey-senses” signaling you about something, make a change. Try something new even if it is to scrap a project entirely and make a fresh start. In the long run you will be better off taking the time to produce something that seems right and your whole being is at peace with. Make sure what you are working on, or doing, feels, sounds, and looks right to you. If it doesn’t, figure out what needs to change and follow your emotional clues.

Or, ask for project clarification or feedback. I guess with age comes wisdom, now if I am stuck on a project, I am getting better at saying, “I want to show this to you. Something still feels off to me, but I think I need your feedback before I go any further.” New insight into the project can help you to clarify what you are truly trying to accomplish. If you have already handed your ideas to a client and they come back with, “I’m not liking this…” Get them to follow up with more specifics – ask them what they don’t like and what they do like. This helps tap into their nigglings and jinglings. With that additional clarity on the project you should be getting all kinds of inspiration.

Remember, just like project feedback, your internal nigglings and jingling are inspiring you towards something better. This feedback is just coming from inside you!

Pay attention, trust and take action.

*To find out more about your muses, check out Elizabeth Gilbert’s “TED talk” – Muses. (

P.S. I totally stole the word “Nigglings” from Eva, so I’d like to give credit where credit is due. It is just such a fun word I had to kidnap it and make it my own. Feel free to steal it too. For soon we will have everyone talking about their “nigglings” and oh, just think about how good that would be!

For more of Kristin’s strategies check out her book “Unscribbling: The Art of Problem Solving and Fulfilling Your Ideas.”