Are you inspired?
I was struck by a long article I read last weekend. In it, a content marketer lamented the state of content marketing and thought leadership.
His primary complaint? The increasing uselessness of content platforms like Medium, Twitter, LinkedIn, and even trade publications. The author pointed to algorithmically driven content marketing as the culprit.
Headlines such as 6 Easy Steps To Solve X Problems make it easy to spot the content marketing articles, which he claimed offer few helpful ideas or education but inevitably contain a product pitch.
“Is this proliferation of bad content the beginning of the end of content marketing?” he wondered.
Is content marketing dying?
I don’t think so. But it may enter a new phase where you can no longer rely on algorithms to feature differentiating content.
Let’s put that aside for the moment.
The disappointment in the author’s piece struck me more than anything he wrote. He’s lost inspiration for his practice.
Has the overwhelming content environment sucked the inspiration out of your content? It’s all too easy to dismiss an idea by saying, “Oh, I’m sure that’s been covered a million times. Who are we to try and answer that?” So you don’t.
Have you lost your inspiration?
It’s a funny word: inspire.
Most people think of inspiration as something ephemeral. It’s that burst of emotional energy that comes from a supernatural place and propels you toward something. It is, in a word: awesome.
When you’re inspired, you jump into life with both feet. Every opportunity seems to awaken another. You transcend the normal experience of whatever you’re doing – playing a sport, performing your art, designing your business strategy, or even changing a diaper. You’re present. No one is better at that thing at that moment than you are. (By the way, science has proven this.)
It’s the best of all possible drugs. Why would anyone allow themselves to lose inspiration?
You don’t lose inspiration. Inspiration loses you.
Inspiration is not motivation
When people lack inspiration, they sometimes think getting it back is a matter of moving, acting, and pushing to yield better results. But that thinking confuses inspiration with motivation.
Inspiration is different. The word itself has interesting origins. It means “influence of the divine” and, literally, “to inhale” or take a breath. It is when you are pulled to action effortlessly. Instead of pushing things to happen, you simply allow them to happen through you.
When you lose motivation, you lose confidence in the usefulness of the task. When you lose inspiration, you lose confidence that you are the person to do the task.
In the article I referenced earlier, the writer suggested an antidote to the content marketing overwhelm. It was a plea to the world (mostly content marketers) to slow down and only say things when you have meaningful things to say. While I love that sentiment, that kind of slowdown or thoughtfulness seems unlikely in today’s world. The bystander effect is in full effect. The more people participating, the less likely anyone will take helpful action.
What can you do? How do you make sure you don’t lose the inspiration for your craft? You know you can’t force inspiration to happen. But can you increase the chances that inspiration doesn’t lose you or you inspire others?
As it turns out, you can.
How to stay inspired
Researchers point to several things that can help. Two stand out to me.
The first is “an openness to experience” – be more open to ideas and be conscious of that openness to trigger more of them. That’s where the breath comes in. Take a breath or give one to your audience. Relieving the pressure to be inspiring might actually give you a better chance of finding it.
The second key to increasing inspiration is exposure. These researchers found the more inspiration people are exposed to, the more inspired they become. If you find yourself lacking inspiration, you may be in need of a good fix of the movie Rudy, a Maya Angelou poem, or (my favorite – turn it up loud) Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.
Here’s the thing. I got into content marketing because it’s my job to become inspired, so I inspire others. Imagine having a job where your purpose is to find a light to shine on universal truths, lead thoughts, entertain, and deliver value through media.
The ironic thing about that content-marketing-overload article is that breath. In the first breath, I found it disheartening the author had lost his inspiration. In the second breath, look at what it inspired? That author inspired me. In a sea of content marketing, I was inspired.
To overcome his particular challenge, all you, as content marketers, can do is allow for inspiration. A great place to start is a simple question: “Who is the audience? What does the audience value?”
Whatever that is, do more of that.
Every great inspirational story starts without revealing how it’s going to turn out. Take a breath. Open up to possibility. What happens next might inspire you.
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute