The struggle to create content, and how to overcome it

The struggle to create content, and how to overcome it

Posted on: 17 January 2014

Man is frustrated creating content, hitting a mental block

When regularly creating content, video or otherwise, sooner or later you will hit a creative block.  It can take a variety of forms: whether it’s developing ideas, what to include and leave out, or even where to start.  Once it kicks in, it starts a recurring cycle of frustration, bemusement and procrastination.  With investment in content marketing rising year on year, the rising volume of content will lead to many more producers frustrated by creative block.

My thinking about the resistance to producing content was provoked by Michael Stelzner. In his article, Stelzner explores how doubt is one of the biggest obstacles to creating content. Thoughts such as “is this really worthwhile?” or “other people are doing this far better than me” are enough to douse enthusiasm to produce anything.  His advice in these circumstances is to battle on, as this is usually a sign that you’re doing the right thing.  I agree: simply doing is far better than sitting idle.

There is plenty of advice from creative masters in music, film, literature and the arts on how to overcome these blocks. Alex Cornell collected a range of strategies used by prominent creatives in his book Breakthrough!: 90 Proven Strategies to Overcome Creative Block and Spark Your Imagination.  Not surprisingly, they range from the bizarre to the inspirational.  My personal favourite is from Aaron Koblin, head of the Data Arts Team in Google’s Creative Lab:

“They say an elephant never forgets. Well, you are not an elephant. Take notes, constantly. Save interesting thoughts, quotations, films, technologies…the medium doesn’t matter, so long as it inspires you. When you’re stumped, go to your notes like a wizard to his spellbook. Mash those thoughts together. Extend them in every direction until they meet.”

I’m a big advocate of note-taking, and it certainly does help when creating and curating content.  Recording thoughts, relevant reports and insightful articles can often become a valuable resource later on.

One point that Cornell’s book clearly demonstrates is that everyone handles their creative blocks differently.  With this in mind, I asked the other members of the Ember team for their tips on how they deal with creative inertia:

1. Feel the pain 

- Robin, Executive Director

One of the best ways to conceive new content is to listen to clients, and meet their pain points.  What questions are they asking about your sector?  Which ones relate to the services or products that you provide?  Every answer to a question is a new piece of content.

2. Stay focused

- Helen, Producer

Exploring lots of ideas can become overwhelming.  You can easily find yourself losing sight of what the original aim was.  When this happens, stop and refer back to the initial brief.  Maintain your focus on the wider vision of what you’re looking to achieve.

3. Do something unrelated

- Jon, Producer

Alternatively, when overthinking an idea and getting nowhere, sometimes it’s best to walk away completely and return to it later on.  I often listen to a piece of music I haven’t heard before.  Coming back to a subject feeling refreshed can often lead to seeing a new way of tackling a subject.

And here’s a bonus tip that I personally find useful:

4.  Have a plan

Strategy and planning is key to achieving goals, and a long-term content plan can make a big difference.  Similar to Helen’s advice, having a vision and then responding with a longer-term plan can often relieve the short-term pain of constantly having to generate ideas.

As I’ve said, everyone is different and I’m sure there are many unique and innovative ways to produce content.  Once this hindrance can be managed though, being able to publish regular quality content will reap the rewards of increased brand awareness, a future-proof SEO strategy and an established reputation as an industry leader.


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The struggle to create content, and how to overcome it



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