“Odd how the creative power at once brings the whole universe to order.”
— Virginia Woolf
In content marketing, particularly in the tech industry, we’re always striving to balance the informative with the creative. As content strategists, bringing order to a client’s universe is a big part of the role. The question often at the forefront of our minds is, “How can I engage readers and provide accurate, useful takeaways?”
One side of that equation may come more easily than the other. Your natural tendencies, the sensibilities you’ve cultivated, whether your process is emergent versus planful, even your mood on a given day – all play a role in content creation. With that said, what do you do when you get stuck?
This month the writers of Version A got together to talk creativity: how we tap into it and the resources we use to stimulate and channel it.
Heather, Writer, Editor, and COO: It has to come naturally.
I don’t have a go-to resource for creative inspiration from a high level. In other words, my main creative idea for something has to come naturally, and that often happens when I’m not trying to force it. Sometimes I have to let the topic stay with me and then step away. It may pop into my head while reading the background materials, I could be driving around, or I could be working out or even sleeping.
Once I have a main creative idea or theme, I tend to rely heavily on an online thesaurus or web search to help find the best terminology to use to weave the theme subtly but effectively throughout the piece.
For example, I was working on a piece that had a postal theme, so I actually did some research on common mailroom/post office terminology to help me find the most fitting phrases to work into subheads that both matched the theme but also matched the idea I was trying to get across in that section.
Anna, Writer: It happens through the lens of design.
What I’m bringing to this discussion isn’t a traditional writing resource per se, but it’s something that’s strongly influenced the way I approach writing. It’s a book called “The Design of Everyday Things” by cognitive scientist Don Norman.
Although it’s essentially about designing things that are easy to use and understand, I think a lot of the philosophies apply to writing as well.
For example, imagine looking at a door. You want to know whether you need to push or pull, which side the handle is on, and whether or not you need to turn the handle. A well-designed door will be intuitive to use – and nice to look at as well.
The same holds true for writing. Following the principle of “show, don’t tell,” each piece we produce should be purposeful and clear, but with enough style to catch the reader’s interest. It’s something I think about every time I write or edit my own work.
Diane, Writer, Editor and CEO: I’m inspired by storytellers who use human stories to invigorate dry subjects.
Whenever I need to find creative inspiration, I always turn to other creatives: artists, musicians, and other writers.
For instance, I have quite a bit of art hanging around the house. Nothing valuable. There’s no original Picasso in my living room! Although, I do have a numbered Andrew Wyeth lithograph. Most of our wall hangings are vintage travel posters. Sometimes a few minutes spent considering one of them is all I need to come up with a new idea.
For music, I can’t listen to anything while I’m writing, but taking a break to listen to a favorite band often gets me unstuck. Concerts are particularly cathartic – and since we go to a lot of them, more useful to my day job than you’d think!
I’m also very interested in the creative process each of these artists use. I found the Get Back documentary about the Beatles riveting. And recently, I learned how Taylor Swift uses her iPhone to write songs. It’s not clear what app she uses, but I now use the Day One app to journal and capture ideas.
Tara, Writer: I need experiences to respond to.
The tool I find most helpful for creativity is actually a meditation app called Insight Timer. For me, creativity is something that happens naturally when I go out into the world. I need experiences and interactions to react to. Sometimes that can also be overstimulating, so meditating helps me to be more centered and focused.
I find I can channel my creative impulses more constructively when I start my day with meditation. Insight Timer’s free version has a number of different types of meditations and there are thousands of instructors. I have to like the sound of the person’s voice, the background music they play, and their actual message. If all three aren’t there, it’s hard for me to focus. Usually, I have to go through a lot of options before I find one I like.
What are your favorite ways to spark inspiration and carry it to the page? We’d love to hear about your processes. To read more of our techniques, tips and philosophies for content creation, visit Version A.