“For the simplicity on this side of complexity, I wouldn’t give you a fig. But for the simplicity on the other side of complexity, for that I would give you anything I have.”
– Oliver Wendell Holmes
In one of my favorite movies Limitless, Edward Morra is a struggling writer who feels completely and utterly stuck.
He has a book deal and doesn’t even have one sentence completed.
And on top of all that… his girlfriend just broke up with him.
In this scene, you can see how helpless he feels.
This is how we can all feel when we’re stuck and aren’t confident in our creative abilities.
It’s not until running into his Ex-brother-in-law where he receives an opportunity to transform his current situation (albeit, a magical pill).
I can’t give you a magic pill that’ll solve all your content creation challenges.
But I will give you a framework and quick tactic you can use to leap out of feeling stuck and begin producing some excellent content for your brand and business.
In this post, I will share a framework that will help increase your productivity with content creation. You’ll spend less time and create more.
And I’m going to share a particular tactic that I’ve been using that has allowed me to produce many quantity ideas (without sacrificing quality).
Time And Energy Constraints Force You To Think Of Better Quality Options
Wow… I feel lazy!
In December 2020, I was relatively lazy compared to how hard I was working at the beginning of the year and throughout the summer.
I suddenly realized it’d been almost a month since I’ve been out of the flow of creating content.
To give you some context, getting into the “flow of content” for me looked like a 30-Day Facebook Live Challenge, and then producing 3 short-form content pieces and 1 long-form content piece each week.
A couple of months before this, I joined an Instructional Team that partnered with UC Berkeley to help teach a Digital Marketing BootCamp.
So I found myself being spread thin by multiple obligations. And on top of that… I was losing motivation.
I still had a desire to produce content. But any free moment I had, I just wanted to relax and be lazy.
Seriously, it’s already been almost a month??
This realization kicked my butt and forced me to re-focus.
As I tried getting back into the flow, it felt more challenging.
Before, I had the luxury of spending a lot more time creating content.
Now… I had much less time.
And the cherry-on-top was I seemed to have an abnormal amount of “creative issues.”
Hey, I’m only human.
But once I stopped beating myself up for it and accepted my situation, something cool began to happen.
My time and energy constraints forced me to consider different content approaches.
Rather than spend more time and energy, I began looking for higher quality approaches. Quality ideas that didn’t require me to exert more energy.
This was when I came across the book One Week Author by Dana Derricks.
And the most significant insight from that book was how his students could create 100+ page books in just weeks using a simple tactic.
Filled with inspiration, I began experimenting with this tactic.
And over the past couple of weeks, my creative process has completely changed for the better.
More ideas have begun flowing, and I’ve started building momentum again.
I’m going to share with you how I’ve been able to do that.
The Benefits Of Being Lazy And Bored (And Why You Should Embrace It)
Contrary to what mainstream entrepreneurs and “hustlers” tell you, it’s OKAY to go through periods of laziness.
It’s natural. It’s human. And it’s impossible to be “on” all the time.
And if you try ignoring it, burnout is inevitable.
But these lazy periods are also an amazing opportunity.
They force you to reconsider your current ideas and processes to find better ways that help you achieve the same amount of work with less effort.
This is how I’ve experienced my recent “lazy period” regarding my creative process for content.
Gather All The Sand First
Let’s imagine that you wanted to build an awesome sandcastle inside of a sandbox.
But in that sandbox, there was a limited amount of sand. Not nearly enough to build a cool-looking castle.
You discover that there’s a sandbox a couple of blocks away that has all the sand you need.
So you decide to gather some.
What do you think would be a more practical approach?
1) Do you think it’d be better to grab some sand, start building the castle, and then go back and get more sand when you run out?
2) Or would it be more effective to get all the sand you think you need at one time… and put it all in one location before you start sculpting it?
From my perspective, you can save A LOT of time getting all the sand you need first, instead of going back and forth multiple times.
And once you have all the sand you need, you can start building and sculpting the castle to your liking.
Two Creative Thinking Processes For Creating Awesome Content
There are two types of creative thinking processes when you go through a creative process of any kind.
Generally speaking, you have divergent and convergent thinking.
Convergent thinking is being able to converge ideas into their simplest form or a simple set of ideas. It’s about taking complex things and narrowing down the idea… shaving off aspects that don’t add value (or combining elements more effectively).
Divergent thinking, on the other hand, is when you generate lots of ideas. A traditional brainstorming approach would fall under this category. It’s about generating complexity by developing more ideas or options.
Convergent thinking narrows-down and refines, while divergent thinking expands and generates options.
And a quality creative process is ultimately an oscillation between both of these. Let me explain.
To give you a visual of what I’m talking about, look at the bell curve below.
On the left side, you have the initial idea or vision of what you want. For content creation, this would be your main topic.
This initial idea is simplistic. And it doesn’t carry much value yet because you still need to take action on it.
And then you move right by engaging in divergent thinking. The content piece rises into complexity. This is because you’re generating more ideas and options for your content.
Then eventually, you engage in convergent thinking. You refine the content until it comes back down to simplicity.
And the result is a powerful piece of content that’s both compelling and valuable.
So back to the sandcastle example.
You start with an idea for an outcome you want: let’s build a cool sandcastle.
It’s simplistic. And not much creative energy has gone into its production.
But it would help if you had some sand in the sandbox to build it—the raw material.
And ideally, you’d want to put all this sand in one location first (or as much as possible).
This is a period of divergent thinking. It’s a process where you’re generating more resources and putting them all in one place.
Then once you have all these resources, it’s time to go through a period of convergent thinking.
You’ll begin building, sculpting, and shaving away elements that don’t serve the ultimate result you want.
It’s a process of integration and simplifying until you have a great outcome.
The Biggest Mistake Content Creators Make: Using Both Processes At Once
When you engage in the content creation process, do you ever start micro-managing yourself every step of the way?
In other words, do you judge your content while you’re “in-process?”
If yes, then no worries. It’s common.
I’ve struggled with it. And I know tons of people who have too.
Maybe you’re trying to write, and when you generate a couple of lines of content… you begin editing and refining before you’ve even written 100 words.
And if you do this the whole way through, you’ll be wasting way too much time (and stifling the creative process).
This is the challenge you run into when you use both divergent and convergent thinking processes simultaneously.
It’s like having one foot on the gas and the other on the brakes.
Not much progress will be made.
It’s much more helpful to recognize which thinking process you should focus on and lock-in.
Then oscillate between the two when it’s appropriate.
Judging Yourself “In-Process” Ruins The Quality Of Your Content
Great content is all about simplicity on the far side of complexity.
A compelling piece of content has a sense of completion to it.
This is because valuable content emerges from a synthesis of different ideas.
And to best synthesize all of these ideas, you want to have all the sand in one location first. Then build and refine.
The key here is not to judge your ideas’ quality while you’re going through the divergent thinking period.
Self-condemnation literally destroys the creative process.
It’s important to embrace chaos within the creative process. If you do, then you’ll eventually find order.
For example, this post you’re reading was initially a mess! I had to move content around like a puzzle to create what you currently see.
Since this divergent thinking process is a huge bottleneck for lots of people, I’m going to share a simple process down below for breaking through “creative blocks.”
The better you get at this, the more quality content you’ll create.
Your audience will love it. And your brand will grow as a byproduct.
A Laser Quick Tactic For Creating More Content In Half The Time
Here’s the process that I’ve been experimenting with for the past couple of weeks.
As I’ve mentioned, recently I’ve gone through a period of laziness.
And this process has helped me produce a consistent amount of content while working fewer hours.
This process can be customized to your content creation needs, depending on your brand and business goals.
This is particularly helpful if you want to develop more written content. However, the general principles can benefit any medium of content creation.
You’ll be able to generate lots of content for your blog, social media posts, and any other platform that consists of written copy.
So the basic process starts with recording your ideas by speaking into an audio recorder (your smartphone being the most accessible option).
You can speak faster than you can write. And you’re more likely to free-associate and generate more ideas while you’re talking.
It might feel weird to do this at first. But remember, self-condemnation will stifle the creative process.
Over-time, some fantastic insights will emerge because you’ve silenced that self-critical voice.
Step 1: The Initial Idea
So grab a device to record yourself, and consider the following question, “What’s the initial topic you want to share content on?”
This is starting with the end in mind. We’re at the left-side of the bell curve.
Step 2: Divergent Thinking
Next, go through a divergent thinking process. Embrace complexity.
Create a brief outline of everything you want to talk about.
Go on a walk (or somewhere that makes sense for you). Press “Record.” And riff on the topic.
Again, don’t judge yourself here. Quantity is more important.
We’re moving right on the bell curve.
When you’re done, send your recording to a transcription service.
I’m currently using Temi. It’s pretty inexpensive. Right now, a 10-minute recording is just $2.50.
After it’s been transcribed, it’s time to go through the last process: a convergent thinking process.
Step 3: Convergent Thinking
I do some editing and proof-reading to make sure everything looks coherent (Temi does a pretty great job with accuracy).
Finally, I move some puzzle pieces around, making sure all my ideas become refined and helpful for this piece of content.
And then I publish!
That’s exactly how I created this post.
So to summarize:
1) Choose a content topic.
2) Create a brief outline of what you want to talk about.
3) Record yourself sharing ideas from the outline.
4) Send the recording to a transcription service (e.g., Temi).
5) Edit and proof-read the transcription.
6) Sculpt your piece of content. Move pieces around. Refine it.
Can You Write A Book In A Week?
Earlier, I mentioned I bought a book about a month ago from this guy named Dana Derricks. He’s a successful entrepreneur, and he’s written a ton of books.
For most of the books that he’s written, he’s created all the source content by recording himself speaking over an outline.
He’s written 13 books this way.
Most people haven’t even written 1.
This has allowed him to create books in weeks (instead of months or years).
In fact, he claims that his most recent book was created in 1 week.
He started with an outline of what he wanted to talk about and aligned each section to the book’s main idea.
It’s an impressive feat to create an entire book’s worth of content (over 100 pages) in weeks.
Recording yourself speaking is a practical way to do this.
The caveat to this is to make sure you’re producing quality. Fluff is fluff.
Recording content doesn’t automatically make it higher quality.
However, it does allow you to go through the divergent thinking process a lot quicker. And it can help you generate more content in much less time (and less effort).
Lots of online marketers are using a similar approach to repurpose content.
For example, let’s say you have a ton of videos, podcast episodes, or interviews.
They can be transcribed and turned into various pieces of content:
- Long-form content
- Short-form content
And if you’re feeling ambitious, each can be used in a multi-channel approach:
- Using long-form content for various blogs (personal and guest posts) and open-publishing platforms (medium and quora).
- Using short-form content for blogs, open-publishing platforms, and social media platforms.
So if you’re someone who does more video or audio content, then you have the option to step-up your content by transcribing and re-purposing it.
Ultimately, this process has saved me lots of time and energy.
Give it a shot and let me know how it goes!
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