We've all spent more time than we care to remember visiting those desolate islands deep within our mind, the places where ideas cease to bloom where new ideas are devoured by shadows, and inspiration is snuffed out like a match in a dirty puddle.
You, me, and everyone who’s ever written or typed a few lines with the hope of making a difference in a reader's life have all been drawn into that dark place from time to time. I call it the desert, I’ve heard it called other names including Tar Pit and Anxiety Hotel. My favorite is, No Exit, an arid place no one is eager to revisit anytime soon.
But the good news is, each of us has made it back ( I hope ) or nearly back with an idea and mental outline as to what we’ll write next.
There are many avenues to travel to lead ourselves out of the these idea wastelands but I’ve found it’s easier to avoid visiting them in the first place, rather than digging one’s way out.
“Don’t let your people fall into a rut. Keep leading them along new paths, blazing new trails. Give them a sense of adventurous pioneering.” David Ogilvy
The big culprit turns out to be the constant distractions that have become part of our daily lives. Social Media, Cell Phones, Notifications and Steaming have collectively added up to a wall of noise wrapping itself around our most prized possession, our ability to be attentive to the task at hand. It’s as if technology has become a ravenous horde screaming at us for our attention.
And these distractions and noises not only degrade our abilities to find and create new and unique ideas for articles and blog posts, these distractions degrade the quality of the content we do manage to create.
Our readers are equally distracted by the constant stream of distractions and noise. making it even harder for us to communicate and engage with them.
It’s necessary that each of us create content that will grab and hold their attention, filling pages and tweeting everyday is no longer good enough.
Take Back Your Own Attention
Before we can grab our readers attention we need to corral our own attention so we can turn down the noise and ignore the distractions. How important is this? Recent studies have shown that when we become distracted it can take up to 20 minutes to regain focus.([Brain Interrupted]https://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/05/opinion/sunday/a-focus-on-distraction.html)) Three or four distractions every hour results in our never fully gaining our best focus, never fully doing our best content creation.
- Refocus on the moment. When you get the urge to check social media or you hear an interesting conversation between co-workers tell yourself “Focus” and inhale - exhale slowly 3 or 4 times reminding yourself to make the most out of this moment and what you’re doing. The more often you pull yourself back the easier it will become to focus.
- Keep some type of journal. Chronicle the struggles and routines you encounter. Which distractions are the most successful at grabbing your attention?
- When you can’t write, what do you do? Pinpoint what you do with your time when your writing is blocked. Do you eat, watch TV, call friends, play games or take a nap?
Writing down which activities are the most common for you to do allows you to catch yourself before you fall headlong into old behaviors. Why? If you can catch yourself before you repeat the same old same old you can chose to do something different, choose to do something that may spark your imagination and creativity.
In the quote from David Ogilvy above he used the phrase “adventurous pioneering” which I think fits perfectly into our goal for both creating great content and for how the content consumer feels as they read it. We want to create something special and the reader certainly wants to both be inspired and to take away something useful as payment for giving us their attention, for giving us their time.
Your muse won’t follow you into the trendy new coffee shop, you know the one I mean, the one where the hip barista now creates the coffee upside down in a Plexiglas gravity booth. No, your muse is two blocks up at the Blue and White diner drinking black coffee and wondering where the hell you are.
Once we understand how distractions rob us of our focus and hinder our ability to create new and exciting content we can act on that knowledge to minimize those distractions, and it’s then that the fun starts.
It’s time to get up out from behind your desk and get your mind and body outside of your comfort zone. Pack a lunch , leave your phone in a drawer or at least turned off and head out to rediscover those things and thoughts that you’ve not seen or thought in ages.
New ideas very often pop into our conscious mind when we are doing things that have nothing to do with work, nothing to do with deadlines and nothing to do with the title of the blog waiting to be finished.
When we deliberately allow our mind to wander and expose our awareness to different things we are opening ourselves to connecting ideas together in new and interesting configurations. Great content creation is really the process of unleashing innovation within our own minds and letting it expand in new and interesting areas never before seen. (hopefully)
Exposing our focus and awareness to areas not usually explored will not only create a wealth of new connections and experiences to build on it will declutter our stressed out minds and make us a nicer person to be around.
Everyday I push myself outside to walk at least 20 minutes and often I walk for an hour. I regularly shop at different places as a way of helping me pay attention to the differences. Spending time with nature, going to museums, historical sites, movies (in a theater) and lectures a few times a month get me out of routines and ruts.
Creating new and interesting content is hard to do if your mind lives with only what it already knows. Each of us wants many different people to like and learn from the content we create
Getting outside your own routine will help you and your ideas to better connect and challenge your readers.