Quick trivia test – Which Virtual Assistant said this?
“Again tried to write, virtually useless…”
“Complete standstill. Unending torments…”
“How time flies; another ten days and I have achieved nothing.”
Me, when I’ve run out of ideas for blog content! Well, no, actually it was Franz Kafka, famous novelist and short story writer. I found these quotes in an article by Emily Temple titled “8 Famous Writers Writing about Not Writing,” but I feel like I could have written them myself.
Do you ever feel like this? In the online business world, we often repeat Bill Gates’ declaration that “Content is King” as a call to action when marketing our businesses. The pressure to create content in the form of a blog, podcast, or video that reaches out to potential clients can seem immense, especially when we’re just starting out. And creativity is a tricky thing. It doesn’t come in a bottle, and it doesn’t usually come on demand. Often when we need it most, it seems to elude us.
When I experience a creative block, it’s usually for one of three reasons:
#1. I think I have nothing worthwhile to say.
#2. My previous blog post gets good feedback, and I’m afraid a new one won’t measure up.
#3. I’ve spent too much time outputting content and not enough time recharging my batteries.
So how can we overcome a creative block and generate new content when the well has run dry and ideas are no longer flowing? First of all, remember that you have a lot to offer your colleagues and potential clients, and don’t let self-doubt stand in your way.
Next, try some of these strategies to help put you in a creative frame of mind so you can get those great ideas flowing again:
1. Live a Little.
This tip was inspired by advice my father once gave me. I was bemoaning the fact that I couldn’t think of anything to write, and he said something like, “You need to live a little before you can write a little.”
Much as we’d love to be able to churn out content on demand, sometimes we need to divert our attention to find inspiration. Have you ever been working on a deadline, got stuck, and then discovered that your project suddenly came together after taking a break?
The best content is a combination of our knowledge, personality, and experience, and some of the experience needs to happen away from our desk. That’s how we come up with creative analogies and insights that enhance and inspire our content.
So if you’re feeling stuck, shut down that computer for a bit and live a little. As Susan Baroncini-Moe says in her article, “What To Do When You Run Out Of Ideas,”
“Sometimes the best thing you can do for your creative rut is to walk away. Staring at the problem won’t help you. In fact, it may very well exacerbate the situation. So walk away. Literally. Take some time off and enjoy life. New experiences and meeting new people serve to rejuvenate your spirit and revive your creative flow. So walk away, let your brain take a rest from trying to figure it all out, and experience something new. You may come back with a wealth of new ideas.”
And sometimes just doing ordinary things can help. An article titled “13+ unusually simple techniques to get creative when you are in a rut” says Stanford University researchers have discovered that walking improves creativity by as much as 60%. Not only that, another study by Scott Barry Kaufman found that 72% of people come up with new ideas in the shower. Just don’t get soap in your eyes when you’re startled by those Eureka moments. ☺
2. Listen to Your Audience.
As we mentioned in a previous blog post, “Five Platforms for Sharing Your Message (and Services) with the World,” here at VAClassroom we plan blog post topics based on the needs and concerns of our audience. This is a good practice to use when planning any kind of content, since you want it to resonate with potential clients and provide value to their lives and businesses.
Listening to your target audience can take many forms:
– Participating in and observing conversations on Social Media (Facebook Pages, Facebook Groups, Twitter hashtags, etc.)
– Communicating one on one with a client or potential client – They may ask you a question that inspires content ideas.
– Reading articles and blogs, listening to podcasts, watching videos published by colleagues and competitors – What topics could you respond to or expand on?
– Reading comments on your previous content – Sometimes your audience will give input or ask questions that can spark new topic ideas.
– Visiting forums – In an article titled “Out of Ideas? 13+ Tools to Spark Content Creation,” Irina Weber recommends accessing forums like Warrior and Quora “where real people ask real questions and discuss the content they’re interested in and issues they care about.”
– Looking at the technology landscape – What tools are popular in your niche and how can you advise or enhance your audience’s experience with those tools?
And sometimes an entire piece of content can be based around simply “listening.” If you’re really stuck, interviewing a client or mentor can be a topic in itself. The interview can be transcribed into a blog post or recorded for a video or podcast episode.
3. Turn the Faucet on.
No, I’m not talking about the shower again. In this case, I’m referring to one of my favorite quotes by author Louis L’Amour. He says, “Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”
One thing to remember about creativity is that it’s like other muscles in our body. Although we do need to rest once in awhile to enhance creativity, we can also stimulate it through exercise.
When time allows, I usually try to do a fun creative project the week before I write a blog post for business. I might take some nature photos, do a pencil sketch, or write a personal blog post. My personal blog is written mainly for friends and family, so it might break some rules of SEO, but it warms me up to produce other content. I like to try out different phrasing or storytelling, and then when I go to write a business blog post, my vocabulary skills feel tuned up. Ideas also seem to flow faster.
If your regular content involves podcasting or video, you might want to create a few short, fun recordings where you play around with format and use the equipment in a relaxed environment. Just creating something without pressure might free you up to think of other serious content ideas you can use in your business.
Tools and apps can also help you turn the creativity faucet on. One that looks particularly fun and practical is Brainsparker. Through the website and app, Brainsparker provides creativity prompts including trigger words, questions, actions, images, and quotes. You can also schedule a daily “brainsparker” and download free creativity workouts.
Founder Gabriella Goddard’s philosophy is inspiring on its own too. She says, “At brainsparker we believe the world can be a better place and it will be your ideas that will make it so. All it takes is a spark.”
4. Chronicle Your Journey.
If you’re just starting out as a Virtual Assistant, it’s difficult to know how to begin a blog, podcast, or video series. How do you plan your premiere into the world of content? At this early stage, you may not be aware of how much you truly have to offer.
A great place to start is with your own story. You could produce content outlining your journey to the online business world and what you hope to contribute to your fellow VAs and potential clients. People love to hear the human side, and sharing your story helps express who you are and what value you bring to your niche. It’s also an easy way to begin generating content since it’s already happened and is right there in your memory banks.
Another option is to provide tips you’ve learned as you’ve begun setting up your office space or using technology. You could do a software comparison or recommend a series of online tools you’ve grown to love. You could also relate stories about how you’re adapting to a virtual work environment (if you’ve recently transitioned from the corporate world).
You have a lot to offer your audience, even when you’re at the very beginning of your online business journey. And once you start producing content, you may realize how much you enjoy it and look forward to sharing your thoughts and experiences. That passion alone can sometimes inspire creative ideas.
So the next time you’re in a creative rut, remember that these dry spells happen to everyone, including famous authors and all of us Virtual Assistants. Try out some of the tips here, and please share your own strategies in the comments below.
Creativity may ebb and flow, but that’s just a part of the process. Enjoy the journey, and the ideas will start flowing again!
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