Flashes of genius or hard work? Here are some ways to conjure your next great idea.
Many bloggers, content producers, writers, and other working creatives describe their perfect world as one where a cup of coffee (or tea) can inspire brilliant content ideas and influence swift action. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. Great ideas almost never result from the sudden ah-ha, the flash of I'm brilliant!
Even so, the best content producers still conjure new ideas and create insightful content on a regular basis. Their ideas are fresh, they present new perspectives, and they write wonderfully. So, where do they pluck this inspiration from?
The answer, for many, is nowhere. Many of the best content producers I've known toil and sweat coming up with their next content idea. Their ideas are founded on extensive research and analysis of primary sources as well as extreme diligence over the authority of their words or designs.
Stephen King perhaps said it best in his book, On Writing: "Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work."
If you're stuck coming up with a new idea, don't sit around waiting for your genius to fall from the sky. Below are six ways to help inspire the creation of great content ideas that you can try today.
1.) Flush Out the Good, the Bad, and Downright Silly
Some of the best ideas grow out of the smouldering rubble of hundreds of terrible ones. And there's a good reason for this: coming up with bad ideas is fun, it's stress-free, and, it allows you to kickstart your creative juices and ponder without any fear of consequence.
As UX designer Jerry Cao once said on the subject:
"For starters, you're exercising your design muscles a lot more than just staring at a blank screen: designing badly is better than not designing at all. On a deeper level, designing a purposefully bad mockup forces you to think critically on the same topics, but from a different perspective. If you can figure out the worst place to stick a call-to-action, for example, that will shed some light on the best place. This kind of productive distraction allows you to think about solutions without actually thinking about them."
2.) Eavesdrop on People
If you were ever taught to mind your own business, simply toss those principles away. As a creative content producer, some of the best ideas may come from the couple having a conversation on the tube, the business person ranting on the sidewalk, or even the drunkard bellowing at the pub. Remember, if someone is talking openly about something, it may be important to that person; if two or three people are discussing a topic, it may be an issue for other people as well.
I'm fond of Thornton Wilder's quote in this respect: "There's nothing like eavesdropping to show you that the world outside your head is different than the world inside your head."
Pay attention to what people are saying. If you hear something interesting (a topic that could be of value to a wider audience), some problem you can solve, or something related to your business, you can use that as the foundation for your next piece of content.
Back in school, you seemed to have all the time in the world to doodle and draw. Some working creatives today may have honed that skill into a passion for design; however, for most, doodling was a way to pass the time.
But according to Sunni Brown, author of The Doodle Revolution, doodling has its own range of mental and creative benefits. In the book Sunni writes, "I use doodling for a variety of reasons: I use it to get clarity around a concept, I use it to relax, I use it to communicate ideas with others and get their refinement of them, I use it to map complex systems for companies, I use it to run innovation games for business, I use it to get insight on something puzzling me."
Next time you're stuck on an idea, consider putting a little pen to paper and making some squiggles first.
4.) Take Ideas and Act Them Out
When I leave the house, I seem to insist on remembering that I didn't lock the door. This is, of course, is quite normal. But a friend once told me something interesting on the subject: "When you lock your doors, try barking like a pup, twirling in circles, and hopping on one foot." "Why?" I asked, curious. "Not sure, but you tend to remember things when you look like a fool."
I still don't bark or twirl and I still fear I left my door unlocked all day. But I sincerely believe my friend had a point. There's little that energises the mind and gets the creative juices flowing like being both silly and active.
In an article on the Huffington Post, Round Table Company CEO Corey Blake discussed the success that a series of improv games had on his executive team. "That experience opened our minds and readied the team for play before diving into more traditional brainstorming," Blake said, "The result was a deeper dive into our exploration and more laughter and fun, which increased our aptitude for creativity."
If you have an idea, bring it outside of your brain. Put it into your arms, your legs, your hips. Make it move. At worst, you'll look silly; at best, it could inspire a great piece of content.
5.) Go Somewhere
If the other ideas on this list aren't working for you, perhaps your solution to inspiration is also the most simple: go somewhere, anywhere, and do your work there. Switching up your physical environment can enact wonders on the psyche; it can even affect how your brain works. In fact, some neurologists believe that new, enriched environments could quicken the pace of new neuron and neural connections.
To inspire content ideas, it may help to scramble the old associations you have with your office, workspace, or that same coffee shop you go to. Look for somewhere new to write or create -- perhaps at a different coffee shop, on the train to some small village you've never visited, at the beach, or even at your grandmother's. I've even found that turning my desk so that I have a new view above my computer brings a touch of creative juice.
6.) What's So Special About This Time of Year?
When stuck thinking of a topic idea, perhaps the simplest (and often quite effective) method is to look to the date and the season and ask, "What's so special about the time of year?"
For instance, back in November of 2015, as I floundered about filling out my editorial calendar for the following months, I knew a topic related to the upcoming New Years could give rise to a potentially poignant marketing post. As such, my most recent post, The Best Digital Marketing Content of 2015, was born.
You'll never create a year's worth of amazing content by waiting for inspiration to come to you. The next time you're stuck coming up with an idea for your next piece of content, leave the blank white screen behind. Flush out the bad ideas, doodle, go outside to eavesdrop or work in a new location, act your ideas out, or simply check out your calendar and remember the possibilities you have both today and tomorrow to grow your blog, marketing campaign, or any other project you're working on.
If you have any fun and helpful brainstorming or inspiration-creation ideas, I'd love to hear about them in the comments below.