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Your brain is susceptible to at least a hundred cognitive biases and plenty of inefficient tendencies.
Especially when it comes to creative content writing.
There’s the Einstellung effect, which is when the brain chooses familiar solutions even if there are better alternatives.
And the flight or fight response, which puts our reptilian brain in charge even when our neocortex (where creative thought happens) can do a better job.
There’s confirmation bias, the gambler’s fallacy… the list could go on.
But instead of focusing on your very human shortcomings, read on for 5 ways you can inject more creativity into your content.
1. Come Up with More Solutions
By testing masters of the game of chess, researchers Merim Bilali and Peter McLeod showed the Einstellung Effect in action.
The researchers set up a board and asked a group of chess masters to reach checkmate as quickly as possible.
The board was set up such that there were two possible routes to checkmate. One route was a well known 5-step move. The other was a 3-step solution.
Despite their mastery, the players didn’t see the 3-step solution.
Then, when the researchers removed the possibility of the 5-step solution, the players recognized the better solution.
Easy, inferior solutions won’t remove themselves for you. Avoid this pitfall by coming up with ten solutions (or content ideas, headlines, etc.) instead of one.
2. Change Your Perspective
“All questions are the frame into which the answers fall. By changing the frame, you dramatically change the range of possible solutions.”
In her book, inGenius Neuroscientist Tina Seelig compares two questions to illustrate the concept explained by her quote above…
The first question, “What is the sum of 5 plus 5?” has only one answer.
The second question, “What two numbers add up to 10?” has an infinite number of answers.
Seelig uses the example of Copernicus, who opened up the world of astronomy when he suggested that the Earth was not the center of the universe.
But you don’t have to be Copernicus to shift your perspective.
You just have to know how to break concrete objects or ideas into more abstract concepts. For example, corn is not just something we eat that tastes better with butter… it’s a source of energy.
Similarly, that mobile app you’re selling to construction project managers isn’t just a scalable cloud storage and collaboration solution. It’s a new tool.
Just by thinking about something in broader terms, you open your mind to more ideas.
It’s become trendy enough that leading companies from Google to Goldman Sachs are making employees meditate.
But for every dozen passing trends — Beanie Babies, Pokemon Go, Planking, and Gelly Rolls — there’s one or two that holds muster.
And research has shown meditation’s effectiveness at reducing “cognitive rigidity.”
That means meditation reduces the chance that you’ll stick with the solutions you’re familiar with even when there are better alternatives.
Equally as important for creativity, meditation has been shown to reduce the reactivity of our reptilian brain.
In effect, this clears the way for your neocortex — which is far better suited for creative problem-solving — to take over.
Personally, I’d recommend the app Headspace to help you get into meditation, though I’ve heard there are other good ones out there.
And you can definitely find some free guided meditations on YouTube.
4. Switch Between Tasks at Regular Intervals
On just about any creative task, you’re going to hit a dead end. At that point, conventional wisdom (and research) says it’s time for a break.
Yet research has shown that human beings aren’t very good at knowing when they’ve hit a dead end.
A study published by two Columbia professors bore this out by comparing the creative performance of three groups.
All three groups were given the same two tasks. But each group was given different instructions:
- The first group was instructed to use half their time to complete the first task and then use their remaining time on the second task.
- The second group was instructed to alternate between the two tasks at regular, timed intervals.
- The third group was instructed to complete the tasks by switching between the tasks at their own discretion.
The second group ended up performing the best. What’s more, the other groups were more likely to come up with repetitive solutions that they mistakenly thought were new.
The takeaway is clear: schedule regular, timed breaks when you’re working on difficult problems, even if it means stepping away when you think you’re still producing good work.
5. Break Your Work into Sessions
The idea that switching between tasks at a regular interval makes you a more creative content writer reinforces the idea that you should break your content writing work into sessions.
As a creative content writer, you can break even a small, 1000-word story into seven chunks:
- Research/Develop the Idea
- Outline/Structure the Story
- Write the Headline and Introduction
- Refine the Structure
- Write the Story
- Edit the Story
- Proofread the Story
Personally, this type of workflow helps me avoid filtering myself when I write. And it prevents me from getting log jammed at any one point (for the most part).
Plus, if you’re working on more than one story, you can break each story into these sections and switch between tasks at regular intervals. This makes you more productive because you’re always moving forward. And it makes you a more creative content writer because you don’t get stuck in any one pattern of thought.
Try one of these tactics the next time you write content. Once one tactic has become a habit, move on to another one, and start enjoying the rewards of writing more creative content.