Earlier this week, we had some pretty harsh words for anyone who’s ever experienced a creative slump. If you’re too pressed for time, here’s the basic summary: if you’re experiencing the slump, it’s probably self-induced.
We listed off a few reasons why people fall down that pit. But admittedly, for a few reasons — like not wanting to make the blog post a 1,000-word entry — we didn’t include any tips on how to get out of that slump.
We’re sorry. We didn’t mean to kick you when you were down.
We don’t want to leave you hanging and we don’t want to tell you it’s all your fault and then leave you to find your own way out. So here are a few things you can do to feel inspired again and pump out dynamic content even despite a rut.
1. Revisit your old and most successful content
It may seem like a mopey, wishy-washy thing to back and reminisce about the glory days. But it’s more than just passively watching or reading. Like a troubled relationship, it’s important to look at the content and ask, “What about this made them fall in love with us?” Was it that you were saying something really groundbreaking, or was it how you were saying it?
2. Focus on shaping up, not on shaking up
Maybe you look back and find that your most successful content was stuff that dropped truth bombs and shot from the hip. The problem is, setting an expectation for yourself to reinvent the wheel over and over is not realistic, no matter how good you are. Instead, you need to transition content to focus on small bits of enlightenment, stuff that doesn’t make your target audience’s jaws drop but rather makes them nod and consider new ideas. Maybe it’s a small improvement to make an existing product more functional. Maybe it’s something to remind your target audience of why you’re already great. The trick is to write this content with the same urgency and importance as though you were reinventing the wheel every time. Don’t under-sell or underestimate the importance of small, practical ideas.
3. Observe your competition, but not just their individual pieces of content
If it’s any consolation, you’re definitely not the only one who’s ever been through a creativity blockage. The secret is not giving that away. For all you know, your biggest competition’s product development teams could have had long nights of pulling at their hair and scrapping long pages of ideas into a bin. You have to learn from the best. Don’t just watch a single piece of content from them and say, “Wow, that was good.” Look at their story, look at how they evolve over time. What content came out as a subtle compliment to their previous content, and what came out as a big punch out of nowhere? Don’t try to emulate the ideas, but try to craft yourself a similar story and trajectory.
4. Converse about it
When you internalize your creative problems because you’re embarrassed or frustrated, that means the problem is stuck in your head — and there’s not a lot of room for it to move around and grow in there. Sit down with a colleague and some coffee (perhaps even a muffin) and lay it out: you’re in one place, but you want to be in another. Start conversing about your project — maybe even hearing a different voice on it will help you get an idea for your next hook or theme.
5. Get interactive
When all else fails, content that directly addresses your target audience and demands active participation can help you steer your brand in exactly the right direction. And there are multiple ways to do that. If you’re the kind of company that does surveys, pump one out. There’s also social media engagement, or more direct contact through your web site. Maybe you want to put out a video that features or even makes light of audience complaints (if you want to go edgy), or one that has a “you spoke, we listened” message (if you want to play it more safe). Sometimes you’ll never know what the problem is unless you just ask.
It’s important to know that there’s always a way out of the dark and dry creative slump. No matter how you got there, there is a way to recover, and we want to make that clear. It doesn’t come from long, contemplative walks or cups of tea (but those help too), it comes from taking a breath and a small step back and looking at your project with a critical eye and saying, “Okay, let’s dance.”