Creative roadblocks can happen to even the most prolific of content creators. When you encounter a roadblock, you’ve got two options to resolve the problem: search for a detour or wait for the roadblock to clear.
Option #1 will help you become productive once again. Option #2 makes it difficult to create any content while you’re waiting for your creativity to arrive.
When it comes to a valuable post for your blog, you want to do more than report facts. That’s what newspapers do. Your blog needs to have a specific point of view. It needs your unique take on things. But when you’re stuck and can’t find a detour, you might settle for boring content to post.
It might be boring, but at least it’s new… right?
Wrong. Using content prompts to spur valuable posts can help you find that detour you need when there’s a creative roadblock in place. Here’s what you can do to start writing exciting content once again.
#1. Get back into your wheelhouse.
There are certain subjects that you know inside and out. This is your wheelhouse. It’s where you are most comfortable as a writer or content creator. If you’re feeling out-of-sorts and blocked, then maybe you’ve strayed too far from home.
The best content will always come from a clearly specified level of niche expertise. You are the best at what you do in some way. Put your focus back to this and you’ll find it becomes pretty easy to clear out those creative roadblocks that can develop.
#2. Add insight to some basic facts.
If you feel like you’re stuck in a “reporting” mode while creating content, then use those facts to your advantage. Create a boring bit of content that only contains facts. Instead of publishing that post right away, however, go back through and add some personal insights to those facts.
Why are personal insights so valuable? Because they offer refined sophistication to the reader. There is effort behind insightful content that can only be earned by rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty. This is why personal insights are sought after by content consumers. It makes the content relevant.
#3. Start reading again if you stopped.
Some content creators stop reading the works of others because they don’t want to inadvertently copy something. The only problem with this approach is that if you stop reading, then you stop learning. Your perspective is important – absolutely. So is every other person’s perspective.
One of the fastest ways to start reading again is to subscribe to some of the most popular blogs in your chosen industry. Don’t just look for branded blogs from businesses. Personal blogs can be quite valuable in terms of ideas.
Chances are that you’re going to learn something new from your reading efforts. That means you’ll have something creative to write about at the end of the day.
#4. Connect the dots of a difficult subject.
T-Mobile is partnering up with Samsung to do testing on 5G cellular networks. The implications of this partnership will be… what?
When you take a look at what’s inside your wheelhouse, you’ll see that there are some future trends to examine. Maybe there are events happening now which could influence the future of your industry in the coming months or years. Addressing this can be an excellent way to use a content prompt to spur a valuable post.
The format is always the same.
- What do you see happening in the future? Or what is happening now that could affect the future?
- What does this mean for your industry? What does it mean for the individual reader?
- What steps should be taken to address the changes which you see the future holding?
Because no one can truly predict the future – sorry Nostradamus – your content doesn’t have to be 100% accurate to be useful. It just needs to contain your interpretation of the facts that are available to you right now.
When you can point people toward something they need to think about, you can start a conversation that may end up becoming several valuable posts.
#5. Create guides for relevant topics.
How-to guides have become a very popular content prompt. You’ll find guides, steps, ways, methods, and other similar formats on plenty of subjects online today. Many topics are worn out because everyone has offered the best way to unclog a drain or the right method to make a tuna casserole.
Many topics may be worn out, but that doesn’t mean they all are.
Take a few moments to do some research about topics with which you are familiar. Look for social mentions, linking patterns, and content gaps where your expertise could be considered useful. In return, when you post content that has useful instructions for readers, you’ll wind up with plenty of incoming links, a growing social conversation, and an engaged target audience.
#6. Grind your gears.
Hosted on Quahog 5 news, Peter Griffin gets to rant on TV about what frustrates him in an episode of the popular adult animated comedy Family Guy.
Griffin goes on several rants, including one about why bread is square, but bologna is round. And can he ever find the droids he is looking for?
Although the purpose of this segment is to get a laugh from those who are watching the cartoon, the actual premise of going on a rant is a solid one when used as a content prompt. There are many things that are frustrating in today’s world. What frustrates you is bound to frustrate others. In this frustration, you can begin to build a community.
What makes this content prompt attractive is the passion it naturally contains. You believe in something that is important to you. You care. Your rant tells the rest of us that we should also care.
After all, it doesn’t make sense that bologna is round and bread is square. The ratio of meat to bread just isn’t right and eating mayonnaise on plain bread without any lunchmeat is something no one would wish on their worst enemy.
#7. Create a list and then keep building it.
List-form content is the holy grail of value for the modern internet. Not only is a list easy to read, but the content it provides is also valuable in very specific ways. You can also easily expand these lists to include fresh content without the need to first find the gift of a shrubbery.
Now you can do more harm than good when using this content prompt. If you are expanding a current list, then you’ll want to review these components of your post.
- Will the URL change if you update the post? If you update a post and the URL changes, then there is a good chance that all of the previous links you’ve shared with others will become invalid.
- Is the rest of the content still valid? Instead of adding to list content, it might be better to just rewrite it. Not every piece of content ever created can remain evergreen for eternity.
- Does your list have the right focus? Adding negative key points to a positive list creates inconsistent reading. And vice-versa. If you are using this content prompt to create a valuable post, then make sure you maintain the same tone in the new content that the older content already has.
If you pull it off, then this content prompt will allow you to create a post that passes the inspection of a majority of readers. If not, you might be asked to cut down the mightiest tree in the forest with a herring – a task which we all know is impossible, even for a guy who might be named Monty Python.
#8. Focus on the media after you’ve focused on the message.
One of the most common roadblocks that stands in the way of a valuable post is perspective. Instead of looking at the content, the creator is looking at how that content is going to be promoted after it has been created. How that content is published can even take a higher priority than the content itself.
It’s a lot like watching an NFL wide receiver be wide open, but take their eyes off of the ball as they try to catch it. If you look at the message before the media, then you’re going to drop the ball.
But I’m getting stuck trying to figure out what I need to say. You know what? Sometimes the best thing to say is nothing at all. If you don’t have something to say today, then leave the content creation alone. Think about the other prompts you can use to create a valuable post tomorrow.
This is because it’s a lot easier to get everything else right when you’re able to get the message right.
#9. What is positive about your subject matter? What is negative? What trends are there?
There are several ways to approach a topic in regards to tone. You can be optimistic. You can be negative. Each option offers trends that deserve to be considered in the coming days. This means each option offers a content prompt that can be the foundation of a valuable post.
What you must watch for when using this type of content prompt is a mixed message. Mixing positive and negative options together creates confusion. Each tone gives you specific themes to follow for your content, however, so you can create multiple posts. Take a look.
Positive Tone Content: Resources, Shortcuts, Methods, Tips, or Habits.
Negative Tone Content: Challenges, Obstacles, Mistakes, or Symptoms.
Positive content following this prompt will be designed to help the reader be able to solve some sort of problem they have. It must have value to the reader that leads them to an outcome of success – or at least the potential of success.
Negative content helps the reader be able to identify the problems they are likely to face in the coming days. It leaves the solutions open-ended and up to the reader, but informs them that there are circumstances that may need to be avoided.
#10. Ask people difficult or provocative questions.
Sometimes you just can’t get rid of that creativity roadblock, no matter how hard you may try. This doesn’t mean there isn’t a detour available to you. It just means that you may need a little help to locate that detour.
This is where your current content consumers can give you a helping hand. You can also have your family and friends help if you wish.
The content prompt here is simple: ask a question. Now you’ll want to be specific with your question. You’ll want to make it a difficult question, or perhaps a provocative one. Generic questions will only provide generic answers. Provocative questions generate some very interesting responses.
Let’s take a look at how you could turn a generic question into one that is difficult or provocative.
Example #1: Would you rather work at home by yourself or by telecommuting?
Here’s a better question: Would you prefer to be your own boss and be a jerk or work for a boss that is a jerk, but pretends not to be one?
Example #2: What do you see the stock market doing in 5 years?
Here’s a better question: What do you see today that could create another recession like the one we experienced in 2007-2009?
Example #3: What came first? The chicken or the egg?
Here’s a better question: If the egg came before the chicken, what animal do you think laid the egg?
Now for this content prompt to work, you must make yourself available to moderate the comments you may receive. That means being active on the comments section of your blog. It means regularly checking in with your social media feeds or your email. Otherwise you may find that discussions could get out of control.
You want interesting answers. You don’t want people grinding their gears at your expense.
#11. Do something that you’ve never done before.
Still stuck? Then maybe it’s time to get out of your wheelhouse. A little adventure never hurt anyone, especially if you have plans to return to your comfort zone in the near future.
The best part about approaching a new topic or theme is that most readers are going to give you a lot of latitude. Just inform them that this is the first time you’re addressing the content.
Why does this work? Because people feel like they’re getting an exclusive. You’re offering something that is completely brand new. The internet is filled with content that has been copied, recopied, rewritten, and pasted. Something that is unique and new will always grab a reader’s attention.
And if you do a great job or make a solid point, there’s a good chance you’ll have more shares than normal.
#12. Offer a unique memoir that can be tied to a serious subject matter.
Stories are what make us unique. They have been part of the human experience for thousands of years. What attracts people to an authentic story is the fact that it is 100% unique. Even if multiple people experience the same event, their personal perspectives are still going to be their own.
So if you’re stuck at a creative roadblock, reach deep into your history and see if there is a story that someone might find interesting. Maybe there’s a lesson you learned the hard way when you first started doing what you do. Or maybe you met someone interesting. Maybe you got married young and everyone told you that your marriage would fail, but you’re about to celebrate your 25th anniversary.
The options here are numerous. They are attractive because they are personal and unique. If you include these key points inside your memoir, then you will have a valuable post.
- Show people what happened instead of telling them. Use descriptive words to pull the reader into that situation. The goal of this content prompt is to make the reader feel the exact emotions and sensations that you felt at the time.
- Be honest about the lessons learned. Not every lesson we learn has a positive one. If a spouse cheats, there is the risk of divorce. If a blogger plagiarizes content, they could be sued. Without honesty in the memoir, there is no real purpose to it.
- Discuss how things have changed in retrospect. Maybe you’ve invented something that has revolutionized your industry. Or maybe you’re just a writer who built a home business to support your family to avoid daycare expenses. Change is important. It unlocks the potential value of your post.
#13. Find common ground.
This is the content prompt that was used to create this very article. Let’s go back in time and take a look.
“Creative roadblocks can happen to even the most prolific of content creators. When you encounter a roadblock, you’ve got two options to resolve the problem: search for a detour or wait for the roadblock to clear.”
There are things that we all dread in this life. Some people dread having Brussel sprouts for dinner. Others dread spiders, especially when they crawl on your face at night. Here the dread we share in common is the creativity roadblock.
Let’s face it: when creativity is missing, there are feelings of pressure that are present. There’s the feeling of “I have to get this done.” We feel stuck.
Now your mutual misery can be a valuable post if it taps into content that can actually solve a problem and then describes how to implement a solution. If all you do is complain, then you’re really just grinding your gears – and that’s a whole different type of content prompt.
#14. Offer people something for free.
“You get a car! You get a car! Everybody gets a car!” – Oprah Winfrey
Let’s face it. We’re still talking about the car giveaway that Oprah aired on national television in 2004 because it was so surprising. Who expects to attend the taping of a talk show and walk away with the keys to a brand new car?
The only problem is that Oprah’s giveaway wasn’t actually a “free” item. Everyone who was offered a car that day had it classified as a prize. It wasn’t a gift. That meant the value of the car had to be counted as income.
So we’d need to change the quote a little to make it more accurate. “You get a car! You get a car! Everybody gets a car! Of course, you’ll need to pay up to $7,000 in taxes to actually use this car, but it’s yours if you want it!”
And this is the problem with using the “free” option for valuable content. Unless it’s actually free, then you’re misrepresenting what is going on with your content and that will drive down your reputation as a content creator.
If something is free, then don’t ask for an email address. Don’t require someone to take a survey. Make it effortless. Give away an ebook download. Create a PDF that could be useful. These downloads can then become a content prompt for an entire series of valuable posts that are centered on this free item.
So you get a download! You get a download! Everyone gets a download!
What Content Prompts Can Spur a Valuable Post for You Today?
Value is ultimately in the eye of the beholder. When you’re stuck at a roadblock, even the ugliest detour looks like it has been heaven-sent, especially if you’ve been seeking out your creativity for some time.
Instead of looking at the value of a post from your perspective, try stepping into the shoes of your content consumers. What will they find to be valuable?
Then begin building content around the single value concept. Let it become the thesis of your creativity. When you can do this, then you’ll find that a small shift in focus for your content development can reap large rewards.