One of the biggest struggles these days when it comes to generating content or being creative, is the seemingly endless sea of inspirations whose waves will catch you and spit you out again leaving you back being totally overwhelmed. This has probably led to the feeling of not being able to decide on one idea and get to the very end of creating and implementing it or maybe you find you are on the wrong path.
Does this sound familiar to you? Well, let me tell you you are not alone with this. As Alex Mathers quoted „ You need to be ok with making stuff you don’t like“. We all end up doing that at times, its totally normal and even helpful as you get new insights and connections from everything you create.
At times where you have free access to many sources of inspiration, like Pinterest, Instagram, or even offline sources like books, magazines, arts, it is more than helpful to really recognize if the inspiration will actually just be nice to look at (and maybe lead to another idea) or if it matches your style and storytelling.
It might take some practice but the more you go through the exercises the easier it will be to get an idea of how an inspiration could work for your brand and story the minute you see it.
Ready? So let’s take a look at the first step
COLLECTING „The fun part“
I call this the fun part because at this beginning and first step you will not value your inspirations and ideas.
Let´s take a look at your sources of inspiration.
Where do you get them from, where do you go if you seek out for advice or inspiration? Or it might be that you already have an entire pool of sources that you scoop your ideas from and are unsure what to do with them apart from keeping everything in a wonderful journal or the prettiest box?
In either case make sure you collect everything that you instinctively feel attracted too. You’ve got a free choice, start big. So, everything that stays in your mind or evokes an emotion- put it into the collection box.
Here´s a little selection of sources I enjoy using:
My personal journals with drawings and sketches, Books, Magazines (cut out what attracts you, a colour, a piece of nice furniture, food, quotes, interviews, a flower, a summer dress etc)
Book stores, Postcards, Instagram (use collections for different themes), Pinterest, Photos, Music, Poetry, Quotes (if you like quotes you can also use quotes apps), Nature, Family and friends (meeting friends can be so inspirational but can you tell what it was that led to an inspiration? A good talk, someone doing a handstand, a good joke, a delicious meal, write it down, so you don’t forget.)
Inspiration can be found all around you. It doesn’t always have to be the big outstanding piece at this step. You may also use a mix of offline and online storage, that is totally up to you and what works best with your working routine.
Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, lightened shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to our should. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic.
– Jim Jarmusch from Steal like an artist: Austin Kleon
The collecting part is an ongoing process. It is very unlikely that you’ll end up thinking “ok, I am done. I have collected all ideas and think I don’t need any more“.
My box of ideas is literally a container but if I want to funnel my inspirations into a magic piece of content I usually stick to the most up to date ones.
- Have fun
- Write down a list of your favourite sources of inspiration, what other sources could you add to your list?
- Don´t judge your collection
- Collecting inspirations and ideas is an ongoing process
Once you have your collection ready to work with, we will continue with the next step and that is
GROUPING CATEGORIES AND THEMES
This exercise will boost your idea generation and is very time saving for future creative projects.
It is like organizing your saved posts into collections on Instagram. If you have a collection for example “holiday“ and you need to write about a holiday specific theme or want some photography inspirations you visit your collection.
We would be very confused and overwhelmed walking into a bookstore and finding all book genres mixed up. The same with magazines on a shelf. All organized neatly and sorted into categories.
Or imagine you are looking for a pasta recipe and would have to go through the whole book to find it, fish, meat, dessert- all mixed up. I would say there are better ways to spend your time, right?!
The aim of this step is to match your collection of inspirational snippets into categories.
If you are already working with categories for your brand or yourself use them.
Grab a sheet of paper and ask yourself:
What categories are there that come to your mind when you think of your collection?
Are there any kind of themes that play a big role in my life?
What instinctively strikes my mind when I think of my brand?
Are there any reoccuring categories, for example in my social media like Instagram?
Think of themes for your categories? (For example season could include the themes: winter, spring, summer , autumn – You can go further into details for example winter: frosty florals, winter recipes, adventures in snow, …).
You don’t have to do this exercise all at once. Maybe put it up your wall or fridge and look at it again a few days later.
(Examples for categories could be advice, helpful, nature, food, parenting, travel, working, sunshine, happiness or also life struggles, photography etc)
Once you feel happy with the selected categories and themes, allocate the collections into them.
Bear in mind that also in this section you don’t have to judge if this piece of inspiration will lead you to your eureka moment. We will come to that a little bit later, but for now be sure your subconscious is already going like a clockwork.
- Think of categories and themes that you connect to
- Don´t judge
- Match the collections into the categories and themes that you have chosen
- Sticky notes is our friend
Once you feel you grouped all our inspirational material into matching categories and themes we will now continue to get more detailed in the next step
In this step it is now time to say good bye and eliminate material that doesn’t support our final idea.
We will use a number of criteria in order to rank them, not only how we feel attracted to them but also how they support and help your business and audience.
To start with look at the different categories that you’ve nicely grouped and maybe added a few themes.
What are the top five categories and themes that you feel a strong connection too, that instantly sparks your creativity and matches you and your brand?
(It doesn’t have to be five, if you can only decide on three, then just have three).
What are the top themes that could bring value to your project or business?
Try to rank your themes into an order of priority for your business. If you find it hard to decide on choosing your top five I have got some questions for you:
What category or theme helps my audience´s most, what are my audiences needs at the moment?
Is there a category that matches the season in a perfect way?
Do you have a channel that needs to be fed with a certain category?
Is there a category that I instantly know I can tell a story about?
Are there any external factors you need to consider? These could be dates, deadlines, holidays, budgets, weather conditions if it comes to photoshoots outside.
- Choose your top five categories
- Rank your categories
- Use the matrix
- If sticky notes are all used up go and buy a new pile
Once you have decided on your top categories we will now continue with the final step
Making magic content
Congratulations, look how far you have come. You have chosen your top categories and you have thought about the category and content that provides most value to your audience.
You have also spend some time on thinking about the implementation. Now it is time to go fishing for the big one- if it wasn’t there already. But don’t worry if not. You will get there. Sometimes it takes a little bit longer but allow yourself to give it a rest in between if you feel you are getting to dogged about it. You already know so much more than you think you do.
You will now easily be able to chose THE ONE category out of your top five selection that you feel is the one that you need to work with. The one that brings the most value to what you are doing and that you really feel attracted to and so therefore will be the one that you enjoy working with.
Go through your favourite category and all the ideas that you have collected.
Is there an eye-catching piece of work that you want to pick out? Choose your favourite inspiration and then put it all away. Don´t look at it anymore and let your mind wander. Grab a piece of paper, empty your desk or go outside and make some notes:
What is it that made you choose it? The colours? Why? Was it a special mood? What was the first thought about it?
A quote that inspired you to write about a topic?
Is there a special topic connoted to it that you might want to write about?
It might also be useful to think of your own agenda and due dates. What is next on the list?
A blogpost? Or a newsletter or you might also have an idea for a podcast Interview?
Your category has now taken the whole journey through a very detailed process and has changed from simply being a category filled with collected ideas to a story telling piece of content that you can work with.
Feel free to mix up all steps. Go through it again. Leave it. Or just take what you need. There are as always no rules to using this.
What is next?
You might experience a big fire of ideas- make sure to write them all down and if possible rank them.
You might experience nothing at all – Grab a cuppa and give it another go.
Go and buy some more sticky notes and treat yourself with a new journal.
Feel free to drop me a line to tell me about your creative process and how you are doing, maybe I can help you however I would love to hear from you.
Never give up, we all have those days when we think creativity has left us and with it our brain. But whatever it might be it is just a phase and it will go away.
If you need another creative boost this might also inspire you.