What does it mean to be creative?
While many people think creativity lives in low light, musky candles, ambient music, and aged vintages, creativity is, in fact, far more allusive. You can’t really plan for creativity, no matter how well curated the atmosphere.
Creativity is a critical component of executing a successful content marketing strategy. And that fact can put a lot of pressure on writers and other creators. Unfortunately, you can’t just order creativity like takeout on a busy Friday night—because, let’s be honest, even that will take too long.
So what happens when you have to write, but you just don’t feel like you have a creative bone in your body?
One of these seven ideas may just be the stroke of luck you need.
Lean On Your Editorial Calendar
Not sure what to write about?
No problem, that’s what your editorial calendar is for. There, you can store ideas, topics, plans, and strategies long-term.
Think about your editorial calendar like the map of your content plan. It lays out what you’re going to talk about, when the post will go live, and how it interacts with your other marketing initiatives.
Try building out your editorial calendar at least six months in advance and reviewing quarterly. That way, you always have something planned, but you’re still able to make adjustments along the way.
When reviewing your topics, how will you know if they’re “good”?
Take one day a quarter to review your analytics and ask yourself,
- What are the numbers telling you? (Great metrics to track are your site visitors, bounce rate, session duration, traffic channel, and pages viewed. Check out our other post that decodes all these top blog metrics.)
- Did you have any top-performing blogs/content?
- How can you lean into the areas where your audience is most interested?
Say you jump over to your Google Analytics, and you see that an overwhelming number of site visitors clicked on a blog post about behavioral finance. That data indicates your readers are interested in those topics and spending the most time interacting with content that addresses those unique issues.
After your analysis, you open your editorial calendar and fill it with topics that fit the bill, like money biases, setting better boundaries, lending money to family and friends, spending money in ways that align with your values, and more.
With a solid editorial calendar, you won’t be stuck for ideas every month and have to force yourself to be creative. Knowing what’s coming next also gives your brain time to think about the topic, so you’ve already primed your thoughts by the time you get to the actual writing.
Eliminate Distractions (As Much As Possible)
You might be thinking, “c’mon, there’s no way to eliminate all distractions,” especially in today’s work environment—whether you’re working from home and are five steps away from your fridge or in an open office space with desks of people yammering on the phone next to you.
Distractions are present.
But when you aren’t feeling all that creative, those distractions can pile up fast. And there’s a fine line between distractions and procrastination—that’s why professional writers have such clean houses.
One of the best things you can do for yourself and your piece is to be as present as possible.
How can you try and stay present?
Start by closing all the tabs you don’t need on your computer—your email, the articles you want to read, other projects, corporate messaging apps, etc. Only keep the tabs open that are relevant to your project.
Next (and this is a big one), put your phone away. Now’s not the time to doomscroll on social media, check in on your group text, or send your mom a photo of your dog; prioritize your focus and put your phone where you can’t see the glow of a notification.
Not to distract you, but another thing that often helps is working in a clean environment. So pick up your gum wrapper, to-do list, excess pens, coasters, and candles, and give yourself a clean and organized space.
If you’re working in a space where other people could interrupt your flow (co-workers, kiddos, pets, etc.), consider a workspace where you can close a door and put in earphones to help cancel some noise.
Start Somewhere Else
Writers love their routines.
Some swear inspiration strikes as early as the birds sing or as late as the owls coo. And while it’s best to create a routine, you may not feel “creative” at that moment.
So what can you do?
Before you give up on the project or chalk it up to writer’s block, consider working on your project one section at a time.
Say you typically start with the introduction, but no clever phrase or metaphor comes to mind. No problem! Instead of getting frustrated with your introduction, move on to one of the other parts of your article.
You likely have a few other points or ideas to contribute. If so, start there. The sections you create don’t even have to be in the best order yet. Getting something down on paper should be your top priority.
Once you start writing, you may find new and creative ways to bring the pieces together.
Remember, not every piece of writing will happen in a straight line or in one sitting.
Break A Rule (Or Two)
Sometimes writing marketing copy can feel so prescriptive that the process stymies your creativity.
One way to take it back is by breaking a few rules.
Allow yourself to have a little bit of fun and try to,
- Start with an attention-grabbing anecdote.
- Include a new medium (chart, graph, photo, GIF, emoji, etc.).
- Hit readers with a sentence fragment, interesting punctuation, or sentence structure.
- Use unique effects like bold, italics, or underlining to emphasize the main point.
- Weave in elements of a different tone, like humor, approachability, etc.
- Tie a personal experience to the content.
Trying something new can be a great way to get yourself out of your head and can help fuel your creative eye.
While the entire list above may make your high school English teacher roll their eyes, just remember, they also told you that you’d need to know cursive for college and professional life—how reliable is their advice?
Take A Break, Seriously
The study of productivity is fascinating. Sometimes it’s easy to get the impression that the more time you spend on something, the more productive you’ll be.
But here’s the thing about being productive: it doesn’t happen when you sit at your desk staring at a screen and never get up to refill your water glass for 8+ hours.
What can you do to boost your productivity?
Take a break.
Taking intentional breaks can be one of the most healthy things you can do throughout the day. Regular breaks, whether for lunch, coffee with colleagues, or just any time away from your desk, are proven to increase your overall wellbeing and productivity.
Here’s a great break idea: go for a walk.
For years famous authors like Charles Dickens, William Wordsworth, Virginia Woolf, and more swore by the idea that going for walks made them better writers.
Groundbreaking research from Stanford may just prove them right.
The team found substantial links between walking and creativity. Their study illustrated that walking increased people’s creative outputs by 60%.
Creativity levels, they found, spiked either during or shortly after taking a walk. Lucky for you, this theory rang true with both indoor and outdoor walking—so not even a rainy day can keep you down.
Another idea for a break is to switch to a different task. A 2017 study uncovered that switching between tasks can boost creativity and limit cognitive fatigue. And that makes sense.
Think about it: one of the best hiding places is in plain sight. You might not be able to see the problem or think about a solution when you stare at the same piece of paper for hours. By leaving one task and starting another, your brain may have enough time to come back to the original task refreshed and energized!
Connect With Material That Inspires You
Where do you find inspiration?
Perhaps it’s in the pages of an incredible book, the insights of your favorite podcast, the light-hearted humor from your spouse, etc.
When you aren’t feeling super creative, turning to others you admire can be beneficial. Doing so gives you distance from your project while keeping your mind active and engaged. It’s amazing how reading even just a chapter of a fantastic book can reinvigorate your mind and get you thinking in new ways.
Focus your efforts on sources that keep your mind active, like books, artwork, cooking, etc. Next time you’re in a slump, take a short break to engage in the sources that fill your creative cup. After all, you never know when inspiration might strike.
Write Freely, Without Judgement
Yes, you want everything you write to sparkle.
But remember, sparkle is a top coat, not a primer. Your first draft doesn’t have to win you your Pulitzer; it just has to be honest and authentic. Writing without judging yourself for what your brain (and fingers) produce is so challenging. But try it; you may be surprised about the quality. And if you don’t love your first draft, so what?
That’s what editing is for.
Prolific fiction author, Jodi Picoult, said, “You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.”
Take these words to heart and start writing, no matter what comes out!
If you’d like to learn more about how we write content for clients, we’d love to hear from you.