If you're like most people, then you've probably read at least one piece dictating how you should create content. There's no shortage of advice to that effect, after all. The web's filled with people who believe their creative process is the right one.
Here's the thing that makes all this disparate advice confusing - none of it is necessarily wrong.
I'm going to share with you a realization that struck me while talking to one of my colleagues at Northcutt. I was discussing how and when I do my best writing. Being a bit of a night owl myself, I tend to work late and write in uninterrupted spurts, usually while listening to music.
It was his response that really drove things home for me.
"I assumed for a while that my system of writing would be a great one," he said. "But it's clear that everyone here does it completely different. " In other words, there's no such thing as a 'golden method' as far as content creation is concerned.
Everyone approaches the creative process a little differently. Everyone has different requirements, standards, and quirks where productivity is concerned. And everyone has an ideal style and method of creation.
"The most important thing I've recently come to understand about productivity is that embracing what works for me is the best way to get more done;" writes Belle Beth Cooper. Cooper is one of the co-founders of Exist, a startup designed to help people make sense of their lives through data collection. She's also a veteran content marketer, with a ton of valuable insight on the field.
According to Cooper, there are four key areas you'll want to focus on for creativity. I've added two additional talking points of my own to the list:
- Time of Day: As I already said, I'm a night owl. I usually do my best work late in the evening, when everyone else is already asleep. You might be a morning person, or even someone who tends to work in the afternoon. Keep track of how you feel over the course of the day, making note of what time you feel like you've the most energy.
- Surroundings: Your environment plays a key role in how you work. Is your workplace too hot? Too cold? Too cluttered? How much light do you require? Do you require complete silence when you write, or do you find it easier to focus with a bit of background noise?
- Workload: What sort of workload do you generally have in front of you, and how do you approach it? While some people prefer to group their tasks or break them into chunks, others may prefer plugging through everything at once.
- Motivation: How you get yourself started is just as important as the creative process itself. Do you like setting and overcoming challenges for yourself, or do you simply prefer to buckle down and create? Do you find it easier to motivate yourself when you set a concrete reward, or is creation its own reward?
- Tools: I swear by apps like Habitrpg, Evernote, and (more recently) Hemingway when I write. At the same time, I understand that they won't work for everyone. Once you've figured out how and when you do your work, it's time to experiment around with a few different applications and platforms. Even if you find one that feels comfortable and natural, I'd advise you to keep looking - you never know when you'll find a new tool to use.
- Medium: Last but certainly not least, you need to consider the medium you're working with. If you're putting together a video, for example, you're naturally going to work differently than if you're writing a blog post. Take this into account when you're reading about content creation.
There are a ton of different techniques floating around the web that claim they'll boost your productivity and make you a better content creator. I'm not saying you should discount any of this advice. Just take it all with a grain of salt, and understand that someone else's advice is only going to take you so far.
At the end of the day, the creative process is a personal thing - you've got to figure out what works on your own.