How to Get Unstuck in Content Creation
Deadlines looming ahead, clients waiting impatiently and you don’t know what to blog about? Try these 8 exercises to break your creative rut.
No matter how good you are at writing, you can still get stuck.
I don’t believe in writer’s block but I know that there are times when you simply run out of ideas and find yourself in front of a blank page without even a slightest meaningful idea for a blog post.
Creating content is now an integral part of every SEOs job. You might prefer the technical aspect of your profession but the fact remains, it’s hard to do anything consequential in SEO without content. But not being able to even decide what topics to write about can put you under a lot of pressure.
Sure, you could brainstorm solutions but quite often, you don’t even know where to begin. With so much content already created, you might end up thinking it’s all been said already.
Well, if you find yourself out of ideas, try one of the exercises below. They are designed to kick start your creativity but also help you look at your topics in often surprising and new way.
1. The “What if” Exercise
To start very simply, take a look around you (or pick aspects of the industry you need to write about) and consider the consequences of a change happening:
- What if the sky turned red?
- What if humans walked on their hands?
- What if Google devalued all links overnight?
- What if Google fired the entire spam team?
Then list what would happen if this change was true. Pretty soon you should have new content ideas with many you normally wouldn’t think of.
2. “100 words on…”
Sometimes the best way to overcome lack of ideas is by writing. Many writers use “writing prompts” to kick start their creativity. They are topics around which you start jotting down ideas. A prompt can be a single word, a phrase, an idea or a challenge.
Consider this exercise – writing an announcement, 100 words max on something unthinkable:
- the dissolution of the spam team
- the step down of Matt Cutts from Google
- The end of Adwords
You don’t have to write a completed copy, a rough draft will be enough. Just make sure that you keep the format of an announcement and list the reasons for the change plus its consequences.
3. _____ School
This is an exercise suggested by Gretchen Rubin. It works like this, you need to name an unusual type of school or course connected with your industry (or whatever else you write a copy for), for instance: “Black Hat Camp”. Next, write a fake curriculum for it: i.e. “Class 1: content spinning for beginners” etc. OK. I might have gone too far with this example but you get the idea.
4. ____ is a Serial Killer
Another of Gretchens suggestions. I have to confess that I am yet to try this one but it certainly sounds intriguing. Pick a person, in this situation ideally an industry celebrity or influencer and turn them into a serial killer. List at least 25 of his crimes. Soon you will have new content ideas.
5. Challenge Assumptions
Most industries have deeply held beliefs, sort of “this is how we do things around here” rules which everyone follows. But what would happen if you did things differently? This exercise is similar to the first one I mentioned,“what if…” but instead of focusing on the industry or your surroundings in general, you target assumptions to generate new ideas.
6. Think in Reverse
Sometimes you are stuck because you focus on the wrong end of the equation. You try to offer advice on how to make things better, be more productive, achieve better results etc and end up being stuck what else could you recommend to your readers. But as Mindtools suggest, what if you turned this upside down? What if you’d start brainstorming ideas on how to worsen the situation, downgrade the service (i.e reduce the number of visitors to the site)? In spite of your creative rut you’ll probably be able to make a decent list of ideas. Once done….reverse them again. List their alternatives and you should have a set of new topics that will once again, help to make things better.
7. Achieve the Impossible
In this technique think of the impossible and then brainstorm ways to achieve it (or at least to come as close as possible to it). Let your imagination run wild. Imagine how it would be to build the next Google or overcome the biggest site in your vertical in search (or whatever else would be impossible for your clients to achieve). Next, generate realistic ideas on how this could be done. Don’t worry about practical implementation. Just think of ways you’d do it in an ideal world scenario. This kind of thinking, where you are free from being restrained by obstacles will free you from usual patterns in thinking and enable to see new possibilities.
8. Come Up with a Worst Idea Ever
This is another exercise that can help you when nothing else seems to be working. It works best as a group exercise but you can do it on your own too.
Create a list of stupid, bad, terrible, illegal or even gross ideas. Poke fun and everything and everyone in the industry, go crazy. No laws apply here. Don’t restrict yourself by anything. Once done, challenge yourself to turn those terrible ideas into good ones, something that could be implemented in real life. You can do this by considering their opposite for instance or finding one aspect of it that can be used to develop a good one out of it.
This technique works because it distracts you from thinking about coming up with the next big thing. As Chuck Frey says – temporarily focusing on bad ideas frees and relaxes you, allowing your mind to come up with new solutions and ideas.
Creative commons image by Bruce Denis / Flickr