What To Do When Your Creative Well Runs Dry
Creativity, and how to find inspiration, is something that we cover a lot on State of Digital.
In fact it’s something that gets a lot of airtime in the digital marketing industry as a whole. There is a constant demand for creative ideas, yet when it comes to supply we find ourselves running short.
So in the spirit of complete honesty – I am not a creative person. Whilst I have ideas and can produce creative content, I am not a fountain of creativity 24/7, so how do I know that I can still deliver creative campaigns on a daily basis?
The key is inspiration and knowing the way your brain works.
Balance Your Brain
As a part of studies into Educational Kinesiology, Dr Paul Dennison discovered that the use of different movements can stimulate the brain and improve brain function. Whilst it can be easy to switch off when people start talking about theories like this, and often dismissed as just some form of hippy nonsense, there’s a lot of science backing this up.
The human brain has two halves, the left half is responsible for logical thinking and maths elements, whilst the right half handles your creativity. But what good idea is solely creative? There needs to be a combination of both sides of the brain working together, and exercises such as these can help keep both sides of your brain active on a task that would usually be dominated by the right-side.
Whether you believe in the theory or not, this also works with the distraction theory by occupying your brain, therefore is perfect for people that struggle to switch off from the task at hand.
Look Elsewhere for Inspiration
The immediate reaction when looking for content inspiration for a client is to look to the work of their competitors. By seeing what has and hasn’t worked for a similar brand, we’re able to find an idea that is most likely to work for your client too.
However, creating something fresh and new for the industry can be difficult if you are only focused inwardly within the sector.
I use Pocket to store every example of cool creative content I see, regardless of if it relates to a client or not. This means, that when I’ve spent my day looking at interactive maps and it’s all beginning to merge into one, I have a supply of exciting content formats that are completely removed from the topic and can be judged on individual merit.
Go Back to Basics
It is possible to think too hard when it comes to that big idea. So strip back what you’re attempting to do to its core, and work around pushing that message out. It is so often in marketing that we overcomplicate things and create something that simply doesn’t fit the purpose, so if your ideas are getting too obscure, it might be time to simplify your plans.
If you follow Innocent’s Twitter account, you’ll know that they have a habit of being a little quirky and unexpected in the types of content they share. But why were these social media marketers hired? To sell more smoothies. So once a day they go back to basics and just tell people they should buy smoothies.
Does it annoy customers for being too salesy? Probably not. People aren’t naïve enough to think that a corporate account such as this one isn’t measured in part by the sales that come through the platform, so there isn’t a harm in spelling it out once in a while.
Switch Off (in every sense of the word)
How many times has someone said they had their best idea in the shower? Or a sudden moment of inspiration when they’re at the gym? The thing that these two moments have in common is the fact your brain is completely distracted during them. By taking yourself away from the stress of needing a creative idea on cue, you’ll find that your relaxed state allows your natural creativity will come out. The theory of Unconscious Processing, where you do something to relax and allow your unconscious mind to do the creative work is one which is discussed in detail in A Technique for Producing Ideas by James Webb Young.
If you’re sat at your desk in the middle of the workday it’s not always easy to go hit the gym or to justify taking a moment away from your work when you’re on a deadline. Instead, you need to look for an escape in another way.
Personally, I find that switching off all technology and going back to pen and paper is something that really helps. Every to do list I have is in a notepad, rather than Trello or Asana, because it helps me to compartmentalise the week’s tasks. Similarly, when it comes close to my State of Digital deadline, every blog post is written up as plan and then a first draft by hand, rather than sat at a screen.
One of my favourite techniques when I’m struggling for ideas is to read a section of ‘The Art of Creative Thinking’ by Rod Judkins, whilst each chapter can be read in isolation it can act as immediate inspiration.
The ideas above will not guarantee you a 100% successful campaign, but they should help you breakaway from being stuck with the same ideas again and again.
These methods are a way to refresh an over-worked mind and give yourself the best chance of being struck by creative brilliance. For those of us that don’t perceive ourselves to be creative people, have confidence that everyone can have good ideas, so all you need to do is make sure your creativity is a process rather than an accident.
Write one word, then another in response. Soon you’ll have a story.