Ideas. If you’re like most entrepreneurs, you’re distracted by at least one or two every day.
If you’re lucky, one or two might spark your next great blog post or a heartfelt email to your subscribers.
But if those ideas just seem to distract you from getting your marketing done, it’s time to refocus.
It’s time to find new kinds of inspiration when you’re tired of trying to write “web copy that sells” and you come up blank.
Even if you’ve generated a list of topics ahead of time, you can still get bored and feel uninspired.
I feel your pain. I do.
But you don’t have to stick to the business facts when you’re blogging.
Yes, your content strategy IS important. And yes, you do need to write helpful how-to articles and answer your readers’ most pressing questions.
But if you’d like your articles, presentations, and email newsletters to connect with real human beings, you’ll need to do more than follow someone’s headline hacks.
You need to tell interesting and compelling stories.
But if you don’t have one of those to share right now, what can you do?
You lean on what you always have access to: Your own life.
Contrary to what you might think, your personal life is a rich source of creative material. One you can use to teach your clients and potential customers relevant lessons about your products and services.
Your meaningful experiences can perfectly illustrate — as metaphors — the importance of doing a particular thing, or in looking at something from a new angle.
And because you were there and lived those experiences, you have immediate access to all the details and emotions that make a story compelling. Bonus!
That time you were devastated that your dog ran away from home? That could be a way to talk about dealing with loss or taking action to find something dear to you.
That lesson you learned in junior high about fitting in? That’s a great way to illustrate how your clients might deal with the challenges of branding or of being seen.
But first you need to remember those stories…
How to Connect with Your Inner Genius and Find Your Best Stories
Fiction writers and poets have practiced these techniques for aeons — with great success. Infuse your business and marketing content with compelling stories by by connecting with your Inner Creative Writer. Here’s how:
1. Be Ready. Get yourself a small notebook or add an app to your phone that will let you record yourself messages. You want to be prepared to capture ideas when you’re least expecting them — when you’re out walking, driving, or standing at the sink doing dishes. Don’t trust your brain to remember your bight ideas. Because it’s highly unlikely it will. Also, the process of writing things down is a proven way to work through the details of your inspiration. Just think about Leonardo da Vinci’s 500+ journals. He wrote down his ideas (and sketched them out visually) so he could work through the fine points. And he was a genius. (I’m just sayin…)
2. Stimulate your visual cortex. Spend time every week doing image searches. Use Google, Flickr, or create an account at a stock photography site (I like Depositphotos.com). Search on keywords you’d like to write about. Create a lightbox (or two) to save any image that calls to you. Pay attention to what those images stimulate for you. What stories do they tell you? A picture is worth a thousand words. Let yourself free associate new keywords. Play around with various image searches until you feel you’ve exhausted all variations of the term you’re thinking about. You may generate a whole slew of new writing topics.
3. Use mind maps. The more you practice capturing your non-linear thoughts on a subject, the more those thoughts will flow. You can do this online, but I prefer paper. Start in the center of your page with a word or phrase. Draw a circle around that. Now begin to capture the ideas that spring forward in whatever order they appear.
4. Brainstorm within a theme. Your over-arching business story falls within one of seven types. Use that type as a container for finding all the other stories — either in your life and business or stories told in the fiction world — that follow that same theme. What are the metaphors and symbols used in those stories? What are the lexicons? See if you can group these into categories. Find the patterns.
5. Think about your firsts. Some of your most powerful memories are tied to those first times you experienced something. Your first crush. Your first day at a new school. Your first time driving a car. Explore those moments in time and see if there’s a relevant lesson you can apply to the type of work you do with your clients.
6. Mine your close relationships. Your best friends. Your romantic relationships. Your children. What memories stand out in your mind as the most meaningful? What lessons did you learn from those moments? Are those lessons metaphors for the lessons you teach in your business?
7. Give yourself random input. First start by stating the topic. (Write it at the top of a piece of paper, or create a new document and use that as your title.) Now, open a search window and type in a word or phrase from your statement. See what pops up. Click on the images filter (on the left side of the search results screen). What do the results and your problem have in common? What does this new input suggest for you? What else could it lead to? If you want to get really random input, try a random word generator.
Fun story: When Campbell’s Soup was brainstorming new ideas for soup products they used the random word generator. They started with the word “apartment.” Then they brainstormed around that word. No logic, they just let the ideas flow – ‘apartment’ led to ‘building,’ ‘build,’ ‘tools,’ ‘hammer,’ ‘saw,’ ‘drill,’ and ‘knife.’ And ‘knife’ eventually led to ‘fork.’ Someone on the team said, “You can’t eat soup with a fork. It would have to be in chunks to do that.” And that’s (supposedly) how Chunky Soup was born.
8. Capture the details. Think about the five senses. What can you say to help your reader experience the story as if they’re there themselves? What do we see, hear, taste, smell, or touch? What dialogue happened? How did you feel emotionally? Spend time writing all of it down. You can sort out which details matter to your story later.
9. Practice. The best advice for any type of writer is to apply your butt to the chair. Carve out a regular time of day to write, create a routine or creative ritual, and then do it. Even when you’re feeling uninspired. Even when you’re blocked. Just keep writing.
Ideas don’t have to distract you. If you learn to look at them through your creative magnifying glass, you’ll begin to see elements you can use to tell fascinating stories — and make them meaningful and relevant to your audience at the same time.
Want more techniques for accessing and telling your best stories? Join us for our next Story Lab workshop.
This virtual half-day workshop will give you the hands-on practice you need to prime your creative writing pump. We’ll write together, share what comes up, and talk through how to use these story starters in ways that serve your marketing needs.
Got a creative writing tip of your own? Please share it with us in a comment!
Each month, a group of wickedly smart business owners come together for the Word Carnival to discuss a business topic, this month – we’re covering Fun and Productivity, and how both can exist side-by-side. Check the other blogs out here.