Let us first establish something very important: All great things stem from inspiration. Without a personal catalyst to drive your creation process, there would be no authenticity to your final product — and we all know that authenticity resonates with audiences.
As a content creator, you’re tasked with coming up with a concept, crafting it into something usable and valuable, scrapping that which doesn’t drive action, and polishing your finished piece. But without that original concept, you have nothing. So how do you hunt down that inspiration that ignites the remainder of your content marketing process?
First of all, visit websites that publish content you love. Whether that’s visual content on Pinterest or editorial content on The New York Times, make a habit of regularly visiting reliable sources of content that excites you.
Beyond the classics, push yourself to continually seek out new sources. If you don’t know where to start, try visiting the most popular sites your audience visits. And don’t worry if the popular content hubs don’t seem like the "hidden gems" of inspiration you’re looking for; you’d be surprised what can inspire you.
When you’re on the sites you’d like to explore, try these tips to find what you’re looking for:
Find and carefully examine that which makes your jaw drop. Don’t limit yourself to text; all formats of creative content are on the table. Seek out photo galleries, videos, podcasts, print magazines — anything that gets your creative juices moving can be valuable for your process.
Once you collect some exceptionally inspirational content, it’s useful to examine it all and ask yourself:
When you have a better understanding of what makes you fall in love with content, you can recreate some of those elements in your own. With a plan like this in place, you can easily enter a more productive state of mind that enables you to produce something powerful.
Follow people you find inspirational: Subscribe to their blogs and social updates, and read their stories. These people could be influencers in your industry, or they could just as easily be bold figures in other areas of your life whom you admire. Following their journeys and understanding what inspires them can inspire you, too. Plus, these influencers are likely producing killer content of their own — or at least directing you to high-quality sites for information.
When observing these people of interest, find out where they find inspiration themselves or whether you can adapt any part of their working processes to your own. Monitoring social connections and subscribing to channels can simplify this task.
When you finally reach the point of finding that wonderful idea, explore it. Shake it around, and turn it inside out. Don’t be afraid to make it into something new.
It might seem counterintuitive to play around too much with the idea you worked so hard to uncover, but it can help you build it into something even stronger. There are several ways to do this:
After you’ve explored your idea and you’re preparing to execute it, never settle for the first draft. The result of a series of revisions may not be what you originally planned, and that can be a good thing. This is why it’s important to really probe the potential in each idea. That said, though, if you’ve thoroughly explored an idea and its draft has undergone a few revisions, it’s sometimes equally necessary to let go and move on to the next idea.
While looking out for several sources of content and actively pursuing different thoughts is good, dividing your attention too much can effectively hinder your concentration. Not exactly the stuff that inspiration’s made of, is it?
If you feel a productive streak coming on:
Ideas are organic; they need time and space to breathe. Take a break and do the things that take your mind off work. Activities that require your full attention — but don’t demand too much intellectual power — often provide that golden balance for work and the elixir your thinking process needs. Whether you choose morning jogging or finger painting, allow yourself to become immersed.
Remember, you are the master of your creative process. “Every idea that you fall in love with is a gift,” artist David Lynch said on art and inspiration. So make the best of your gift.
Annika Rautakoura is writer based in Helsinki with an affinity for traveling to random places, Pilates, and binge-watching ’90s TV series. She also really appreciates a good meme.