So, I had this deadline to meet. The clock was ticking away mercilessly, leaving me feeling a tad helpless. I hadn’t begun writing anything but the rather lengthy blog post was due the next morning. It was already half-past ten at night.
My problem is, when I’m out of ideas, I’m really out of ideas. There’s not even a speck on the horizon.
Unfortunately, missing a deadline is not an option. Nor is creating subpar stuff, knowing how crucial good content is for the reputation of a brand and a blog.
So what do you do when you are in this situation? I’ve picked up a few tricks along the way that may help you.
1. Allow yourself to go completely blank
For a few minutes, let all the thoughts of panic, guilt or whatever is going through your mind to die down. Let your “monkey mind,” as the Buddha called it, quiet down until there’s pin-drop silence.
It takes about 15-20 minutes for me to get to that stage. It may take longer for those who aren’t used to this exercise.
Fix your gaze at something in front of you (the flame of a candle works, but if you can’t procure one, find any spot at eye-level and keep gazing at it). Sit upright as you do it, in rapt attention, but not in a rigid manner. Keep your hands locked if you can, resting lightly on a desk. Remain still, breathing steadily.
What this will accomplish is that you will stop freaking yourself out. As the moments of silence stretch out, you will sense an idea or two knocking on the door.
But don’t entertain them just yet.
Get up and walk around for a while, for about five to 10 minutes, holding that focused state of mind until you have somewhat ensconced yourself in it.
2. Pour your heart out
What you were missing the whole day was engagement. You were not feeling excited about any of the so-called ideas you had in mind. Needless to say, if you’re not excited about creating a piece of content, others are not going to feel excited consuming it.
Content is powerful when it contains the creator’s energy and intention.
Now that your state of mind is calmer and more focused, pick a topic, any topic, but it's better if you usually feel strongly about it. Start writing on it. I don’t care if it’s about veganism or Obamacare, just do it without second guessing yourself or worrying about how you’re sounding.
Keep writing with passion and conviction until you feel the crescendo building.
Then stop at the climax. Why?
Because you don’t want to run out of steam doing something that is essentially a warm-up exercise.
The aim of this exercise is to get your curiosity piqued, your adrenalin pumping and yourself back in the groove. But before you go all the way with it, switch to working in earnest on the assignment you have been cowering from the whole day.
Begin anywhere, but keep going and you will eventually find a thread that will lead you on to the right track. The transition will be smooth, and before you realize you’ll be on your way to creating something you could actually use.
It works. Try it.
3. Imagine you are making a YouTube video
As creators of text- or image-based content, we live a lot in our minds. But too much of this sometimes leads to us losing ourselves in directions from where we find it difficult to come back to the work in hand.
What talking does is force you to come back into the moment, to face the here and now. It requires you to capture in words the ideas your mind has been chasing.
Sports commentators, YouTube personalities, video bloggers, they are all adept at this.
Speaking articulately forces you to confront your thoughts, the confusion in them and weed out the words and concepts you don’t feel are doing justice to what you have to say.
The next time you have to create something, but are having a tough time nailing an idea, try this exercise.
NB: I can vouch that this works for those who think and listen more than they talk. Not sure if it would work equally well for the talkative kind, though.