Marketing pros that consistently pump out a high volume of informative, entertaining content might make it look easy — but, the truth is, good writing is hard work.
And behind every attention-hooking social media post, witty line of web copy, engaging video script, and reader-friendly blog post is a writer who exerted a lot of mental energy. So, it’s not unusual for content teams to occasionally run out of fresh ideas, fall into a rut where everything begins to sound the same or feel creatively stumped (after all, even great masters of prose like Toni Morrison and Ernest Hemingway grappled with writer’s block).
But, as an organization that depends on high-performing content to generate demand and nurture leads, you can’t stop the presses while your team waits for their mojo to return. To keep things moving, here are five ways you and your dedicated wordsmiths can jog creativity and stave off future slumps.
Reading is to writers what a warm-up exercise is to marathoners. Sure, you can still run a race without stretching your quads, but you’d likely perform better if you did.
Reading something you enjoy can help you expand your vocabulary, increase empathy, strengthen your imagination, and improve overall cognition — all of which are necessary for improving writing.
And this theory isn’t just based on anecdotal evidence — it’s supported by scientific research, too. According to a study by Stanford, reading drives a dramatic increase in blood flow to the brain and could serve as cognitive training, teaching people to use new regions of their brains.
Consider keeping a good book at your desk and, the next time you feel like picking up your phone to mindlessly scroll through social media, read a few pages instead (and encourage your team to do the same).
Trying to crank out content when you're in the midst of writer's block is like trying to shovel your sidewalk in the middle of a blizzard — it’s an inefficient use of time, and you’re unlikely to make much progress. That’s largely because stress leads to mental fatigue or “brain fog.”If you’ve been staring at a blinking cursor for 20 minutes with no progress, it’s a good sign you should step away. While taking a break may seem counterintuitive (especially when you’re on a tight deadline), giving your brain a chance to refresh can do wonders for your productivity and mental acuity.
Remind your team that it’s OK to walk away if they need to recharge. This may mean stepping outside for some vitamin D, taking a walk, doing yoga, calling a friend or spending time doing anything except writing. Sometimes a half-hour breather is all it takes to rejuvenate your creativity (but a long weekend is even better!).
Here’s some brutal truth: just because you’ve written about something a lot doesn’t mean you’re an expert. Sure, it makes you knowledgeable and well-researched, but it doesn’t make you an authority (unless, of course, you’re writing about writing).
The next time you feel like you’ve completely exhausted a topic and there’s nothing left to say, consider reaching out to a subject matter expert (SME). An SME can help illuminate new ideas, bring a fresh perspective to tired angles, and provide insights you may not otherwise be privy to.
Take iOFFICE, for example: Even after blogging about facility management for nearly a decade, the brand still manages to publish two new, informative and engaging blog posts every week — all by leveraging internal (and sometimes, external) expertise.
In other words, there’s always more you can say.
Have you ever noticed how time seems to move more slowly when you’re doing something for the first time? Like the first day at a new job, for example, or when you travel somewhere you’ve never been. That’s because our brains take longer to synthesize new information (which is why these experiences are often more memorable, too).
Our brains are wired to process things as quickly as possible, but exploration interrupts those patterns and may even generate new brain cells, according to Scientific American. So, when you’re stuck in a creative rut, one of the best things you can do is try something new.
And you don’t have to go far to enjoy a new experience. Exploring can mean anything from hiking an unfamiliar trail to attempting a different hobby.
Sometimes the biggest threat to creativity is spending too much time in your head, re-reading your own work. In these cases, the best cure for the slump is a little collaboration and peer feedback.
Consider dividing your team into pairs and giving them an opportunity to review and critique each other’s work, or help ideate on a project or asset they’re struggling to finish. These simple conversations can help writers learn from one another while also fostering support for continued improvement.
Creating great content requires a lot of mental energy, and if you’re not making an effort to rest, replenish and find new sources of inspiration, eventually the creativity will run dry. By practicing these five activities, you can help keep your team sharp and unleash their brightest ideas.