Content creation can be one of the most exciting processes you’ll ever engage in, especially if you’re new to the game. With the wealth of information to be had on the Internet – plus your abundant arsenal of personal opinions, it may seem that you will never run out of things to write about.
While there is truth to that, there is also the stark reality: after a while, content creation can be a pain in the bum.
If you’ve been working online creating content one way or another – blogging, ghost writing, copywriting, social media marketing, etc. – you’ll know what I am talking about. In the traditional work place, a year doing the same job is practically nothing. People in the corporate scene labor for years to get somewhere. Online, a year doing the same thing is like the blink of an eye sometimes. Things change so fast, that if you do not keep up, you’ll find yourself at a loss or left behind.
And, when it comes to writing content, that seemingly bottomless well of ideas you have can actually run dry.
But I’m not here to be your Scrooge. I don’t want to put down content creation as a chore to be abhorred. I do want to highlight the fact that there are pitfalls to this activity and that sometimes, you need to exert some effort to find content creation refreshing and exciting again.
Having worked online for over half a decade myself, I know full well just how elusive inspiration can be. To paraphrase Jack London, you have to grab a bat and go after inspiration at times.
So, let me share with you some unusual sources of inspiration that can help refill your content creation well. Let’s say I’m giving you a bat…
Source #1 – Your failures
I’m starting off with the most difficult tip. Who wants to think about their failures, more so talk about them? The thing is, there will always be a point when you fail. You will always have a weakness. You might as well turn that into something productive!
For example, did you get reamed out by your editor? Think about the situation. Why did it happen? What did you do wrong? How did you handle it? How could you have handled it better? How can you avoid it from happening again? With the right perspective and enough time, you can turn this experience into great content for others to learn from.
Another example: rejection letters. Let’s say you’ve sent guest blogging pitches and you just can’t seem to get a break. Instead of being upset and ranting about how difficult people are, why not take a step back and examine the situation from an outsider’s point of view. What could have gone wrong with your email? What can you do to increase your chances of getting a positive response?
How about negative comments in your blog (or Facebook page/Twitter stream)? What do you do when you get those comments? No one likes being criticized, but there might be something you can learn from those comments. Sure, there will always be trolls whom you should not feed, but if you cast a discerning eye on the negative feedback that you get, you just might be able to turn things around.
For people who practically sleep in analytics, how about those red figures on your Google Analytics Dashboard? I don’t know about you, but when the time comes for me to take a look at how our sites have performed in the past month as compared to the previous one, I always get the jitters. When I see red all over the place, those jitters slowly turn into a sinking feeling in my stomach, only to evolve into a ball of frustration. And, as I write this post, I realize that one can turn the tables on those darned red numbers! (I have to admit – I know I will still get frustrated!)
Source #2 – The History Channel
“You can’t be serious!”
I totally understand if that’s your initial reaction upon reading this tip. We all know that The History Channel is not exactly the most distinguished production house, but hey, the point of watching its shows is to take the chance of stumbling upon a gem.
I’m actually not promoting the channel per se, but anything that provides stories and insights into the lives of other people. For all intents and purposes, I could have subtitled this The Biography Channel. These TV networks may highlight the lives of the rich (and not-so-rich) and famous (or infamous), but the point is to expand your horizons and lose yourself in the lives of others – at least temporarily. Whether you pick up something from their success or failure, you never know what idea will strike you.
Along the same lines, you can try spending more time watching documentaries, if you don’t already. The BBC has the best documentaries, in my opinion, so it’s a good place to start if you’re not a documentary fan.
Source #3 – Leisure websites
Or, as I like to call them, “time sinks”. Obviously, these web sites vary from one person to another, but based on my preferences and interests, I suggest the following sites:
- Reddit – “The front page of the Internet” is getting rather crowded as its popularity has skyrocketed, but the subreddits – sections for specific topics and interests – is where it’s at. You’ll probably find yourself “wasting” time reading the comments and joining the fray, but the chances of getting inspired by the snarky and smart (most of the time) Redditors are really high. The trick: browse the comments.
- Quora – If Reddit is the front page of the Internet, Quora is your “best source of knowledge”. Again, I find it a time sink because of the immense amount of information to be read – directly from people like you and me.
- YouTube – We already know that YouTube is one of the most popular web sites, with children as young as 2 and seniors as old as 90 relying on the platform for entertainment. How can you turn this time sink into inspiration? If watching cat videos makes you feel like working, then go for it! Seriously, though, YouTube hosts so much content that you will always find something to think about to apply to your own content creation process. Additionally, you can take a look at videos that flop or go viral. You can also look at parody videos. If anything, they’ll make you laugh. Either way, you can dissect those videos and make content out of that endeavor.
- McSweeney’s Internet Tendency – They say that in order to write well, you ought to read good material. Admittedly, there is a lot of crap online, but this site will give you awesome writing and make you laugh till you seams burst at the same time: from pieces on literature to defending the honor of Comic Sans to interviews of people with interesting jobs.
Source #4 – Magazines that you’ll never read
I’m not a big (print) magazine reader, but there is something to be said about content found in print, as opposed to online content. I have found that reading something that is not part of my normal content consumption does wonders for my own creativity.
This is something I don’t normally talk about, but there was this time that I found myself picking up a magazine about plastic surgery and beauty procedures in general. I don’t know what possessed me, aside from the fact that it was the magazine on top of the pile. I found myself spellbound at what lengths people go to change their physical attributes. I would never have thought that I would read such material, but guess what? I ended up being a writer-at-large for the magazine for a while. Writing for print did give me a different perspective and helped with opening up to different styles and possibilities for online content creation.
On a slightly different note, I am not referring only to magazines. Pick up anything new – a new web site, a new book, even a tabloid newspaper! The point, again, is to explore beyond your comfort zone.
Source #5 – Poetry
Along the lines of exploring… why not try reading poetry?
I know it’s not for everyone, but I am a firm believer in poetry being an acquired taste; and once you have acquired this taste, you will always turn to it for solace or inspiration. There is just something to how talented poets play with words that even the best prose writers can’t match – at least in my opinion; and while reading poetry may not directly translate to content creation ideas, the mere act of reading poems (aloud or in your ahead) can speak to your soul and open up a raging gush of creativity.
Don’t know where to start? Here’s a good list of recommendations for new poetry readers.
Source #6 – The human propensity for crazy behavior
Every human being has his crazy side. Even the most boring person you know can surprise you in this matter. The trick is to tap into that craziness in a safe environment and to know to what degree to let go.
The way I see it, you can do this in two different ways.
Let your hair down. If you’re as adventurous as they come, then you don’t need to read this section. If, however, you like routine and stability (though there’s nothing wrong with that!) then give this idea a chance. Why don’t you make a list of things that you have never done before and are not likely to in the near future? Then pick one – the most feasible, if you wish – and make a decision to actually do it. What are the benefits of doing so? You’ll experience something new – isn’t that enough? On the practical side, you can go ahead and write about it. You might be surprised at how your emotions regarding the experience translate into written word.
Live vicariously. If you just can’t take the leap right now, no need to fret. You can write about that. Or, you can live vicariously. Some people ditch their jobs to travel the world for a year. Others give up everything they have to volunteer to help the less fortunate. Whatever kind of adventure you are looking for, you will certainly find that someone has done it or is doing it. Follow their lives (not stalk, mind you) and get inspiration from that. I am pretty sure that if you go down this road, you’ll be prodded in the same direction at some point.
Content creation is an art and a science both. There is the aspect where you have to analyze what works and what doesn’t work online, but there is also the aspect which taps heavily into human creativity; and when it comes to the latter, some things are just difficult to pin down. I hope that my suggestions above will serve as additions to your usual sources of inspiration for content creation.
One last thing: if all else fails, get out of your work mode and have a The Simpsons marathon. Oh, you don’t watch the show? See my last point about crazy humans and living vicariously.
Noemi Tasarra-Twigg is the editor of Freelance Writing Jobs, an online community for freelance writers. They provide daily job leads as well as resources for writers. In her downtime, she “keeps tabs on the industry” by trolling her favorite web sites.