Percussive maintenance is the fine art of repeatedly hitting something until it works properly. In my experience, that process might release some anger, but it rarely solves the problem.
And yet, it seems content marketers use percussive maintenance every day. They expect their efforts to work by repeatedly hitting the same topics over and over. Not only does the content look like the things others publish, but it all sounds the same too.
Have you ever come across a piece of content and you could have swore you saw it somewhere else? After a bit of digging, you find the original content source. Some of the sentences are arranged a bit differently, but other than that it looks and sounds the same.
It’s a sad reality for many who publish content.
But the problem doesn’t always lie in a lack of ability, time or knowledge. The true culprit sucks the life out of content by first removing inspiration from the writer.
And so, desperate to hit the content quota, the writer pulls content from somewhere else and tries to make it his own. He may never get caught. But he’ll never make truly remarkable content either.
You need inspiration. It comes in many forms and from many places. In the spirit of percussive maintenance, many articles on content inspiration sources hit the same few points.
But what happens when we look beyond the ordinary into the little known sources of content inspiration?
1. Keep a Journal
A journal gives you the opportunity to relish in your success, dive into the depths of your soul or simply account for your day. It’s not the specific method that brings inspiration, but the act of capturing your thoughts on the page.
It’s amazing what you can learn about yourself, your business and the world around you by keeping a journal. Give it a try.
2. Memories from Your Past
I’ve experienced many things that made me into the man I am today. Some memories I cherish, and others I try to forget. But I can use each of these things to infuse a specific voice and personality into my writing.
Use your memories to inspire new content, stories and lessons to share.
3. Get a Daily Briefing
As I’m sure you know, the web is full of inspiring content that can spark your creativity. Unfortunately, finding that needle in the haystack can consume quite a bit of your time. And if you’re like me, you don’t have time to waste.
That’s why I love tools like SmartBrief. It does all the hard work for me.
They have more than 225 newsletters across 45+ topics. Each newsletter is chock full of information and news. It’s a gold mine of great content.
4. Chat with Friends in Other Industries
Professionals across many industries face the same types of problems. And if you can understand their point of view, it can add a new dimension to your content.
For example, what if I wrote a marketing article about common social media challenges? Might seem like the other 100 articles that got published about that this year.
But what if I wrote about it from an interview I did with a mechanic? See the new dimension?
That’s the power of little known sources of content inspiration.
5. Lunch Dates
Lunch dates give you the opportunity to network with friends, colleagues and competitors. Set them up, bond over coffee and use your time to discuss a wide range of topics.
Chances are, you’ll learn quite a bit during these type of meetings. You’ll uncover stories, challenges, solutions and lessons. It’s a content inspirational gold mine.
6. Talk to Strangers
It’s amazing what you can learn from a stranger passing by. Unfortunately, we’re all so connected to our devices that our human connections often fall to the side.
Take a moment to talk with strangers as you encounter them along the way. You’ll be amazed by the inspiration you can uncover from the journeys others take.
7. Competitor FAQs
Business leaders understand the power of competitive analysis. But did you know that this strategy can translate directly into content creation? By understanding the information your competitors cover, you can identify gaps and lack of depth in your own content.
Start with their FAQ section. Then, scour it for possible educational topics that you can address better than your competitors.
8. Charity Work
Serving the world around you is a great way to get out of your own head. You begin to see the world from a different perspective, and you open your mind to new possibilities.
I don’t know about you, but to me, that seems like the perfect atmosphere and attitude for inspiration. Find some type of charity work you feel passionate about and get involved. You’ll be amazed at what you receive by giving of yourself.
9. Travel Experiences
Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University, conveyed it best when he said:
Those experiences become stories, anecdotes and a sea of creative inspiration. They can impact your writing in a way that material things and quantitative success can’t. Invest in these experiences and enjoy the positive influence they can have on your content.
10. Go Outside
There’s something invigorating and exciting about connecting with nature. The beauty of the outdoors has a way of igniting a sense of awe. And, as psychologists have uncovered, that emotion makes us shift our concern from self to everything else.
The best content in the world doesn’t speak to the writer’s need. Instead, it directly influences the lives of the reader.
That’s why I believe that the best strategy for finding true content inspiration starts when you stop thinking of yourself and start feeling concerned about your audience. And nature can help elicit that emotion.
11. Look at What’s Popular on Topsy
You can often find inspiration by looking at what inspires others. And what better way to glimpse into a person’s life than through social media?
Topsy is a social search engine that shows you what’s the hottest, most tweeted and shared content around the web. Type in the topic you need some inspiration for, then dig through the results to see what you can find.
12. Reading Fiction Books
As a content marketer, there’s an element of storytelling that needs to come with the content you create for you brand. And what better way to get inspired for storytelling than to read great stories?
Pick up a good fiction book today and let the storytelling aspect carry over to your work as a content marketer.
13. Magazine Headlines
To contrast the content storyteller, there’s the content scientist. Someone that needs quick, quantitative results for the copy. For this person, magazine headlines can give access to raw inspiration.
Magazine copywriters in particular have perfected the art of headlines. Study their work and apply their concepts to your next piece of content.
Inspiration comes in many shapes and sizes. And sometimes the best ideas for content happen when you aren’t looking at a computer screen.
So now, I want to ask you - how can you use these habits and experiences to spark your imagination? Leave me a comment below with the strategy you plan to try this week.