Creative inspiration is like a butterfly: It’s beautiful from a distance, but full of weird insect parts up close.
Sorry, let me try that again. Creative inspiration is like a butterfly: Sometimes it seems like no matter how far you stretch, it flutters above your head, beautiful but just out of reach. Sure, you could sit perfectly still and wait for it to land, but your editorial calendar beckons. Few marketers have the free time to truly find their creative space. At the same time, you know that content with that creative spark will be far more compelling.
The next time your creative butterfly just won’t sit still long enough for you to get a good look at it, grab your butterfly net of proactivity and go after it. Here are five ways to get inspired when you’re stuck.
#1 – Stock Photo Sites
When you’re looking for a metaphor that will make your blog post come alive, start with a compelling image and build from there. Fire up your favorite stock photo site—I like Pixabay and StockSnap—and take a look at the recently uploaded photos. Both sites present a grid of photos devoid of context, of widely varying subject matter. Even if you don’t find the header image for your post, odds are you will get the spark of an idea that will make your post more lively.
#2 – Twitter’s Front Page
Most of us hardly ever see Twitter’s home page. If you elect to stay logged into the site, Twitter just drops you straight into your feed, where hours of distraction await. If you log out, though, you’ll see a dynamic grid of trending tweets that you can customize by topic. See what’s capturing people’s imagination in real time, and you can use the inspiration to write a topical post. For example, this Taylor Swift-themed post on MarketingProfs captured an of-the-moment metaphor to give sound marketing advice.
#3 – Mashable
Like the front page of Twitter, Mashable’s home page is a direct line to the Internet’s subconscious. It’s like Reddit, only you won’t risk getting fired for clicking the wrong link. The three columns on the page show what’s most shared, what’s trending, and the most recent stories uploaded, giving you three vantage points for finding a creative angle. I spent just a few minutes on the site, and I’m already outlining my “5 Content Marketing Lessons from the Isle of Wight Triceratops” post.
#4 – Outside
The first three items in my list are designed to spark inspiration by data input. But sometimes, what you need is the opposite: less data, fewer screens, less fluorescent light. Sometimes you have to get up and go for a walk outside—even if, like me, you live in the frozen tundra of Minnesota. Leave your smartphone at your desk (unless your coworkers are exceptionally shifty) so you won’t be tempted to Facebook on your walk. Allow yourself to be a little bored, if need be; boredom is a rare and prized commodity in the age of distraction.
You don’t need to go on an epic vision quest, so save your PTO—a five minute stroll should be enough to clear your mind and get your creative juices flowing.
#5 – This Trippy App
All distractions aside, your butterfly of creativity really lives inside your own head. Sometimes all it takes to generate an idea is to put yourself in the right mindset for a few minutes and see what surfaces. My go-to tool for this kind of meditation is an app called Pulsate. Click the screen to create circles that expand and contract, playing gentle chimes when they touch. The simple, mesmerizing visuals and the random-but-pleasant sound can get you to your creative space post-haste.
Don’t Let Your Butterfly Flutter By
I can say from experience that when you feel uncreative, it’s tempting to dive into social media and vegetate. I mean, how can you do creative work when you’re not feeling creative? Surely that butterfly will land eventually…until then, I can take this quiz and see once and for all which Power Ranger I am.
The trouble with procrastination is that it leads to stress, and stress leads to feeling less creative, which leads back to procrastinating. It’s a vicious cycle, ugly as a close-up picture of a butterfly’s mouth (seriously). So instead of stagnating, use the tips in this article to catch your creativity and put it to work.
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