By which I mean, “how do you use elements as things they weren’t intended as?”
Here’s an example - ActionVFX has lots of fantastic smoke footage, but smoke doesn’t have to be “smoke.” Before the dust hits were created I’d take a smoke element, hit it with Curves to punch the contrast then use that as an alpha matte over a Fractal Noise in shades of tan to make dust.
Another example would be to take an ActionVFX explosion element into a precomp (Ae) or Composite Shot (Hitfilm) and animate the clip so the main fireball stays centered in frame (use a mask to get rid of the trailing edge). Take this into another comp, change its color, hit it with some Twirl and a heat distortion. Now it’s a spell hit or a teleport cloud or something.
There must be thousands of other ideas.