How to Avoid Creative Fatigue When Your Job is to Keep Having Ideas
As seen on State of Digital
Creative Director is a dream job title for me and I was so happy to receive it at Kaizen. I love coming up with ideas for our content pieces and helping others refine theirs. However, there is definitely a pressure that comes with being responsible for our creative side of the business. Creativity is not confined to 9-5 hours, sometimes it hits you in the middle of the night and sometimes it’s just not there when you need it. This is something I hear a lot from others in creative roles in this industry.
So what can you do when it is literally your job to be creative and constantly come up with ideas? Here I’ve outlined a few things that help me keep creative fatigue at bay in this fast-paced content marketing world!
Surround Yourself with Creative People
No creative is an island – that’s the saying, right? Well, it should be. Creativity is so often a team effort because it’s incredibly rare for a brilliant, fully fledged idea to pop into your head out of nowhere. Ideas are sparked by the things around us and more often than not it’s the people around us and their thoughts and ideas that spark the best creative concepts.
As important as having these creative people around you is having an outlet for your combined creativity. At Kaizen, we recently started a slack channel (called Creative Crew, if you were wondering) where people from any team with creative passion can join and share ideas. This channel is used almost daily for the sharing of content we have seen online that has caught our eye. Importantly, it is not always good content we share and we frequently share pieces with critiques of what we would have done differently, as this is equally important when building a bank of content to refer to when looking for inspiration.
This is also a place to ask for help. Whether that’s help with an idea, a design or even a title wording, having a group of creatives in one place, sharing and bouncing ideas around, is key to solving many creative issues you may have.
Don’t be Afraid to be Formulaic
Some people may think that formulas and repetition have a negative effect on creativity, after all most articles about ‘how to be creative’ often start by telling you to get out of your comfort zone, change it up and break your routine. However, when it comes to content, most creatives would agree that there are certain formulas that work for them and sometimes being creative just means finding new ways of using those formulas.
As an example, we have created a lot of pieces that compare locations based on a combination of metrics; we call these ‘Best City For…’ campaigns. This could be the best city for millennials, looking at WiFi signals and coffee shops or the best towns for families, looking at schools and housing costs, etcetera etcetera. This is a great formula, it plays into the data-led approach we like to base all of our campaigns in and it’s something that journalists are often interested in so it earns links. There is nothing wrong with returning to these formulas as a starting point when thinking of ideas for a new client or project.
Know When to Chuck Formulas out the Window!
Wait, didn’t she just say to use formulas? Yes, I did. However, there is a difference between using formulas to inspire some reliable ideas alongside different concepts, and completely resting on formulas to the detriment of any innovation.
I was recently pulling together a pitch for a travel brand who needed more high authority, global news links. We did an ideation session, I picked our top ideas and made pretty slides with them on ready to pitch. I was running through the pitch-deck the day before with our founder, Pete, when he pointed out a very obvious flaw I hadn’t noticed – every single idea was a variant on ‘best city for…’. I tried to justify it that there was a mixture of city, state and country comparisons and that each idea tied into very different niches, from education to wellness but I couldn’t deny that we were essentially pitching 3-5 variations of the same idea.
This was a huge wake-up call, I was so stuck in our formulas that I genuinely struggled to think of a different style of content for this brand. So, we went back into ideation mode but this time ‘best city for…’ ideas were banned! We started to think about travel content that was not related to location but instead costs, people and activities and came up with some ideas I much preferred to some of our original ‘best city for…’ ones and we ended up pitching a mixture that we – and the client – were really happy with.
Remember to Make it Linkworthy
There have been many articles written about how to make linkworthy content, I’ve even written a few myself, so I won’t go into too much detail here. However, it is important to remember the end goal when coming up with creative concepts as it’s easy to let your creativity run wild. You may have wonderful, ingenious ideas but if they are not going to earn links – or whatever your end goal is – then ultimately the idea is not fit for purpose and should be rejected, or saved for a more appropriate project.
3 Ideation Tips to Kickstart your Creative Flow
I wanted to end this post with 3 little tips that will hopefully help someone out there who thinks they have run out of good ideas; because you haven’t! There will always be new ideas out there that you are fully capable of forming, sometimes you just need a spark to ignite them.
- Pre-game your ideation – being given a brief and a blank piece of paper, expected to come up with ideas on the spot is not always the best way to generate quality concepts. Instead, it is often useful to do a bit of pre-research before heading into an ideation session. Look at what people are writing about on that topic in the news, what competitors are doing and what people are searching for on this topic (I use Answer the Public for a quick overview pre-ideation!).
- Get your formulas up – whatever formulas work for you, whether that’s ‘best city for…’, ‘X reimagined as Y’, or ‘the real cost of X’, put them up on a screen and begin by trying to come up with 3 variations of each that work for the topic you are working with. This will not only give you a bunch of ideas instantly but will hopefully spark some completely fresh concepts too.
- Start at the end – instead of coming up with an idea and then working out what sources you will use for the data and how it will look, try starting with these things and working backwards. For example, go to data sites such as statista, numbeo or government websites, look at the wealth of data they have available and see what you could do with that data to create a new news story. Similarly, go to visual collectives such as Behance or visually, look at the content styles displayed and decide if they could work for your project.
Ultimately, creativity is subjective and different things will work for different people. Hopefully, if your job is to constantly have new ideas, some of the tips in this article will help you the next time you’re suffering from creative fatigue!
By Pete Reis-Campbell - 09/09/2019