The dreaded blank page. We’ve all been there.
When you need to come up with an amazing advert, a wonderful white paper or a barnstorming (could’ve gone with brilliant, went with barnstorming) blog post, and the words simply don’t come.
The longer you stare at that white void, the harder it becomes to find that creative spark.
And it’s not that you haven’t done your homework.
Sometimes, even when you’ve done all the research, got all the insights, and downloaded all 42 documents that the client’s sent you on WeTransfer, that flash of genius still won’t arrive.
Too much information can actually be a bit overwhelming.
But it’s moments like this when you can turn to your most basic of bodily functions – the five senses – to help you find that creative inspiration.
Inspiration is all around you. You just need to know where to look.
If you’re just heading back out into the world on your daily commute, have a gander and catch the ads on buses and trains, or check out billboards as you’re driving past. You’ll probably spot a bit of creative wordplay.
Feel a bit addicted to your social feeds? Use them as an idea generator. The next time you’re having a mooch on Twitter or Linkedin, screengrab the stuff that captures your attention while you’re scrolling. Because if it worked on you, that approach is a winner.
The news is a good place to look too. Whether in print or online, news outlets are vying for your eyes, and they use some pretty persuasive tactics to capture attention and make you read more. So instead of rolling your eyes at the next terrifying headline about the world ending, take note of how they’re wording it.
Supermarkets use similar tactics to get you buy stuff. But a bit more subliminally. Linger at the end of aisle 11 the next time you’re in Tesco, see how they word special offers and promotions, stuff those ideas down your trousers and hope you don’t get caught on the way out.
Take out your headphones, prick up your ears and listen to the world around you, because there’s all sorts going on that’ll get your creative neurons firing.
Most conversation is pretty average and functional, but somebody each day is guaranteed to say something to you that you’ve never heard before – whether it’s a collection of words in an interesting order, a clever turn of phrase or something new entirely. Ideas aplenty.
Try and tune into other people’s conversations on the bus or at a café too. Yes, technically it’s eavesdropping, Dennis. But it’s also a great lesson in observation. And you might even pick up some surprising insights.
You’re hearing natural conversation here too – so use that type of language in your writing to make it feel real.
Smell, Taste and Touch
I’m grouping these three together as a mini creative exercise. This is where you really go back to basics.
Whatever it is that you’re writing about, find some objects that are related to that thing.
Let’s imagine you’re writing about the summer holidays. Gather some objects that smell, taste and feel like summer. For smell, it could be some suncream. The taste might be a Cornetto. And the feeling might be some sand.
Let’s start with the suncream. Squirt a little onto your finger, close your eyes and take a good deep sniff. What do you think of? What memories does it bring back? What vivid images does it create in your mind?
Are you by a pool, sipping a margarita? Are you busily getting the kids ready for a day at the waterpark? Whatever it is, write it down.
Then do the same with the Cornetto. What memories does that taste bring back? Maybe you’re sat on a gondola on Venice’s Grand Canal?
And the sand… does feeling those grains falling through your fingers take you back to childhood caravan holidays with your grandparents?
By jotting down your feelings and memories of this stuff, you’ll end up with some deliciously creative copy about summer holidays that could form the perfect intro to your next piece. Full of emotion, totally authentic, and a million miles from salesy.
This might not help if you’re writing something super-niche about the evolution of haemoglobin or something, but you might just pick up a little thought-starter if you’re working on something a bit broader.
And if anything, just stepping away from that dreaded blank page is better than getting sucked into its vortex of nothingness.