So much can be written about writing, the topic of content creation deserves its own library. And in some ways, the ubiquitous “content marketing” movement has become just that – a virtual reservoir of essays, articles, publications, white papers, reviews and blogs that beg for immediate consumption. With the constant stream of content rolling in, we must suss out meaningful content from the banal. And furthermore, we must create meaningful content that offers something of value rather than simply contributing to the content cannonade. The goal for content creators should be to write something original, useful or true. Below are three of my go-to practices to create original content in a mindful way.
Before the Madness, Meditate
Of all the reasons to meditate, balancing our brain hemispheres may be the most immediately beneficial to our creative process. Mediation helps to recalibrate our left brain and right brain, slow down our thoughts, reduce anxiety and achieve equanimity in our “drunken monkey” mind. Before we begin writing, we may feel overwhelmed with ideas and concepts, or lack thereof, making it difficult for us to focus. Meditation helps us regain a cool head, so we can begin our creative process from a place of clarity. I used to think I had to whip myself into a frenzy to inspire my greatest creativity. I realized that meditation helps weed out the unoriginal ideas and crystalize core concepts. In this way, meditation offers a starting advantage.
How to Start: Find a favorite spot where it’s quiet, cool and comfortable to sit for 20 minutes. Close your eyes and begin the cycle of Nadi Shodhana breathing for as long as you’d like, ideally no less than 5 minutes. Once you feel complete, resume normal breathing and sit with eyes closed for several more minutes. Ride the wave of your breath and do not attach to thoughts or ideas. Instead, trust that the right ideas will surface exactly when you need them during your creative process.
A Methodical Mess – Start with a Mind Map
Mind Mapping has long been one of my favorite creative practices, and an effective tool to organize thoughts, illuminate core concepts and bring peripheral ideas into focus. The process sparks our natural instinct to find associations and create structure while encouraging divergent thinking. This means the brain is constantly toggling between the left and right hemispheres, giving way to a continuous interplay between the analytical and creative mind. When left to its own devices, the mind will create connections between concepts to achieve completion and arrive at a solution, helping the content creator craft a message with a clear and compelling storyline and resolution. Additionally, the mind’s process of creating associations often leads to unexpected connections and breakthrough insights. This is one of the most profound practices for generating original ideas.
How to Start: On a whiteboard or flip chart, draw a circle in the center of the page and write your Core Concept or Deep Driving Truth or Big Hairy Audacious Goal. Now, draw 10 lines radiating out from the center of the circle, like rays of the sun. Quickly, print the first 10 associated words or phrases that radiate from the center when you think of your core concept. Don’t think about it, just write what comes to mind. Then expand each of your ten key words or phrases with further associations. Spend 1 minute on each keyword. New associations will be made, and you’ll realize you can keep going!
When you’re complete, you may find certain rays produced more associations than others. Perhaps of your 10 original rays, only three were prolific. Bravo, you’ve just identified the three supporting ideas for your Core Concept.
Kill Your Darlings
Your mind map will reveal the strongest, most original ideas for your content by the length of the ray. While divergent thinking helped you uncover some fascinating associations, it’s time to employ convergent thinking to help sort and analyze ideas towards a succinct message. It can be painful to birth new ideas only to destroy, regroup, analyze and reject them, but it is a necessary process to arrive at the most salient content that supports your Core Concept.
I have found the editing process to be one of the most difficult and important steps in content creation. When I get stuck thinking that all of my ideas are relevant and necessary, I switch gears and look at it through the lens of my customer, and ask these three questions:
- Does this message align with my WHY?
- Is it original, useful or true?
- Are there any ideas that do not directly support my Core Concept?
Then, I slash.
The creative process is ultimately a personal one, and it is often a divine convergence of inspiration, insight and knowledge that leads to the most meaningful content. If you have practices, tips or advice about how you ensure your content is original, useful or true, please share in the comments section below.