As I established in a previous piece, everyone's creative process is a little bit different. I'm a night owl, myself - I do my best work to music when most decent people are asleep. Figuring out your own unique approach to content creation is vital if you're to succeed.
That isn't the only thing you need to do to be an effective creator, however. In addition to understanding how you create, you also need to establish an ironclad process for you to follow when you create. This process serves a few purposes:
- You'll be able to come up with better ideas, and you'll have a fallback for when you're in a rut.
- You'll gain a deeper understanding of your audience, and be better able to tailor content to them.
- You'll work more efficiently and be able to generate more content.
- Overall content quality will improve.
"The task of creating content that both drives conversion and fosters community and long-term relationships is not an easy one," notes Brett Henley of Skyword. "Part of the struggle is understanding the nature of this content creation challenge. And that lack of understanding is a big-time distraction."
Henley speaks of something called the content gap; the gray area between what we create and what our audience is actually looking for. According to him, we spend most of our time in this gap, mulling over how we can eliminate it with one fell swoop. And that's precisely the problem.
"The most difficult mind-shift when it comes to content creation is pulling your focus away from the end game and putting it into the creative process," Henley continues. "Instead of focusing on your destination, focus on what you're creating each day."
Focus, in other words, on the process rather than the content it generates.
Full disclosure: I can't go over the minutiae of what your process should look like. As I've already said, it's dependent upon you. What I can do is offer a general framework of what a good creative process looks like.
It consists of the following:
- Idea Generation: Make sure you set aside time to brainstorm new topics and ideas. Failure to do so is a frequent mistake in content creation, and one you don't want to fall prey to. Keep all your ideas in one place once you've come up with them; that way, it'll be easier to flesh them out when the time comes. With that in mind, inspiration can strike at any time - make sure you've always got a notepad handy.
- Fleshing Out Ideas: When it comes time to write, you probably aren't going to be able to just sit down and start hammering out articles. You're going to need time to flesh out whatever ideas you've decided to write on. Use search tools to determine what people are saying about your topic and figure out what you want to say about it.
- Writing: When do you plan to write? Speaking from experience, it's always best to set aside a certain time each day when you're going to work. We are, all of us, creatures of habit - we tend to feel better when we're sticking to a schedule, even if it's self-developed.
- Editing: Another piece of advice from Henley is that you separate the editing process from the creative process. Establish a scheduled time when you'll review all the stuff you've written simultaneously. Usually, it's best to do this a day or so after you've written a piece, so you've some time to mull it over.
- Sharing: How are you going to market your content? Your process should include a general framework for sharing through social channels and the like. Make sure you're sharing with the intent to start a conversation - not promote yourself.
- Archival: Once your content's hit the web, create an archive to back it all up. I use a combination of Bittorrent Sync and Google Drive to make sure my hard drive - and all my blog posts - are safe and sound.
- Analysis and Interaction: Lay out a time of day or week when you'll look at the content you published previously and analyze it. Look at what people are saying about what you've written, talk to your audience, and seek out opportunities for additional content.
Creativity doesn't really work on a set schedule, but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't. When you're creating content, it's best that you follow an established process. That way, you'll be far better equipped to meet your own needs as a creator - and the needs of whoever you're writing for, besides.