Here in the Midwest, the sun has gone on hiatus, and while a few of us can’t wait for that first snowfall, most of us loudly bemoan the fact that we live on the wrong side of the equator.
As a writer, my creative muse always goes a bit dim during these winter months. Maybe it’s the fact that I spend most of my days wrapped in an electric blanket, using far too many four-letter words while describing the sub-zero temperatures. Or perhaps I’m exerting more energy than necessary on questioning my perception of reality while everyone I know walks around in short sleeves and asks me to chatter my teeth a little more quietly.
The problem with professional creatives is that deadlines don’t wait for our creativity to wake up from hibernation. Organizations and businesses are counting on our flawless deliverables—and even more so, they are relying on the loads of creativity we’ve spent websites and portfolios and entire years of our lives boasting about.
WHEN OUR CREATIVITY COMES TO A SCREECHING HALT, HOW DO WE STILL PRODUCE GREAT CONTENT?
1. STEP OUT OF YOUR SURROUNDINGS. True, we all can’t afford a trip to the Caribbean, but we can take our work to a local coffee shop and see new faces. We can easily find an indoor park, a museum or a local hangout favorited among artists and go there for a day or two. Often, I discover that when I leave my typical surroundings, I become more productive and more creative. Maybe it’s the way the light filters into the room differently or the energy I feel from the lives of the strangers around me. I’m sure there’s a science to it all, a deep psychology that reveals how terribly messed up I am, but all I really care about is if it works. And it does.
2. READ SOMETHING. If you’re like me, you get so busy writing and blogging and catching up on all of the new digital trends that it’s easy to wonder who in the heck has time to read a real book? But when you live what you preach, allowing the words of others to inspire you to action, something happens in that special place reserved only for creatives, and the dam breaks. While you may not uncover enough to write an entire manifesto, your mind will discover fresh nuances with the way structure influences perception, and inspiration will settle into the folds of your brain, emerging the very moment you find yourself searching for that perfect word. My current go-to is Thirst, a beautiful collection of Mary Oliver’s poetry. Her words wrestle their way deep into my soul and whisper to me throughout the day, begging me to think beyond the boundaries of my own thoughts and pushing me to create in new and powerful ways.
3. TURN OFF THE NEWS. Sometimes the news inspires us to write great things. It sparks our emotion, our anger, our sorrow, and we feel compelled to use our own gift of language to influence others with our newfound enlightenment. But lately, my soul has been heavy with the stories coming out of the news outlets. And for me, that can be paralyzing, leading me to believe that sometimes, we have to take our heads out of the mess in order to see clearly, finding our inspiration not in the mottos of the mob but in the peace and solitude waiting to meet us in places where the only noise is the wind among the trees. (Need proof that the news messes with our psyches? Read all about it here.)
4. MEET A FRIEND. If you’ve tried solitude and are still falling short of worthwhile things to say, maybe it’s time to call a friend. By design, most writers are a bit elusive. We often describe ourselves as introverts—so we’re introspective, preferring the thoughts of our ordered minds over the chaos of the world. But, take the time to step back from yourself. Grab coffee or a growler with a friend and just talk about life, work, family and dreams. You might just leave feeling inspired to do something big.
5. WRITE ANYWAYS. I’ve yet to meet a creative who doesn’t have an unhealthy struggle with perfection. Our work centers around notions of getting the perfect phrase or the perfect word or the perfect image or the perfect audience. We define our own success by conversions and engagement and click-through rates, building our own private worlds where we never measure up to our own expectations. So, we spend much of our lives feeling like our writing skill just isn’t good enough. And while this is what often makes our work reach beyond the mundane and into the powerful, it can also be immensely paralyzing. It's hard to get started when failure is peering at you from behind the computer screen. So what do you do? You write anyways. Even if it’s a sentence your 10-year-old son could have written—write it down anyways because you’re creating pathways to something great.
Ash Ambridge said it best when she reminded us to “examine the evidence about what you’re really capable of—and not get sidelined by mere opinions of yourself. Your opinions don’t matter here. Only the facts.” Some days, you’ll wake up feeling like you’ve bought into a complete lie, that you’re the world’s worst writer and that you’ve wasted four decades of your life chasing a ridiculous dream. That’s when you get to work writing—even when you don’t feel like it, because tomorrow, you’ll remember that you actually are pretty great—and you’ll have a few great sentences to prove it.
Content Marketing Institute tells us that nearly 50 percent of marketers say that they don't have enough time to produce the content they need. This means there's plenty of room for great content creators who can help kick start new ideas and conversations, so on the days you're not feeling very inspired to get out there and change the world with your words, look for creativity in some unusual places and you may start to see a hint of sunlight emerge through the clouds.
Do you have some favorite sources for inspiration?