Whenever I find myself struggling to come up with a good topic to write about, I go back to the movie Adaptation. Now, Charlie Kaufman is a writer who understands the plight writers, designers, and other creative people face when they have run out of ideas. He experienced such an extreme form of writer’s block trying to adapt to a movie about orchids, he eventually wrote a movie about writing the movie about orchids. He gave himself a twin brother for comedic relief, added a few chase scenes, and turned it into something very different from where he started.
At WebiMax, we are happy to have a very diverse client base in practically every industry you can think of. No two days are the same here, which makes it very interesting for a content marketer like me. However, at the same time, every marketer will experience a creative drain at some point. The most important thing is to not let your frustrations make you give up or produce content for your clients that you know isn’t up to your or their standards. That next brilliant idea – maybe one worthy of an Oscar nomination – is in your head.
Here are a few ways I have found have helped me get the creative juices flowing again:
Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, Father of the Japanese short story, said, “Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.” Your biggest assets as a marketer are often those around you. You will have your perspective and experiences, but another marketer on your team will bring theirs to the table, which may help you see the campaign in a new and different light. Consulting people on your team and learning from experts in the industry may be just the boost you need for inspiration and enhanced creativity.
If I am experiencing a lack of inspiration on a project, I will often find that I’m overloading my brain. I will be listening to a podcast, have several other browser windows open to catch up on the news, and lose focus because I’m paying attention to a conversation across the office. In order to boost your creativity, it pays to remove as many distractions as you can, so you can maintain your focus.
One of the most common questions I have heard from marketers is whether music can help boost creativity. According to science, it really depends on what you’re listening to. Rock music, for example, is distracting and crushes concentration. A 1987 study that looked at how various music styles affected concentration found that rock was the worst for creativity. Mice that were forced to listen to rock music took five times as long as other control groups to find food placed at the end of a maze. Classical music can be beneficial, but only if you like it.
Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal, Co-Founders for the Flow Genome Project, wrote a guest post in Forbes last year about creativity and how difficult it is to teach it. They argue – and I agree – that it’s far more beneficial to be taught how to reach a state of mind for creativity to flow. Think about when you’re producing your best ideas. It’s probably not after a caffeine-driven all-nighter or when you feel sick. You should certainly read about their study and how subjects achieved significant boosts to their creativity and productivity when following the assigned protocols, but there were a few takeaways you can apply to your own life.
You know you shouldn’t be looking at your phone or catching up on emails when it’s bedtime. Blue light is terrible for sleep health. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same times every day, and make sure the place where you sleep is dark, quiet, and on the chillier side.
Start the day off right with movement, reflection, and fuel. If you know you have tasks that require considerable brain effort, schedule those in the morning when you’re your most productive.
Stuck on an idea? Step up from your desk and take a walk. Researchers at Stanford University performed a study on idea generation. They had some subjects brainstorm ideas sitting and others while walking on the treadmill. The subjects walking on the treadmill performed significantly better.
If you’re constantly thinking about work, you’re never going to be at the top of your game as a marketer. Take time to decompress. This could mean going out for a walk with the family, exercising intensely at the gym, or meditating in a quiet place. If you never recharge your batteries, your creative energy will eventually plateau.