During my days as a senior writer on Brafton’s editorial floor, I was paid to write content – not shoot sparks over my keyboard. And yet, there they were … those tiny, blink-and-you’ll-miss-them sparks.
Why was I creating sparks and not engaging content? Well, that’s simple.
I was writing an article about magnets, so I tossed two super-powerful neodymium magnets into the air to see how quickly they would gravitate toward one another. Very quickly, it turns out, and with such speed that their collision sent sparks flying. My team’s assistant editor witnessed this miracle of science and wasn’t too pleased.
While my Brafton superiors, other companies that occupy our building and the Boston Fire Department would probably prefer if writers weren’t seconds away from burning down historic 1 Winthrop Square, I had become something everyone should get behind – an inspired writer.
The high price of mediocrity
Whether you’re channel surfing or eyeing the tabloid selection at your grocery store’s checkout aisle, you’ve no doubt come to the realization that not all content is created equal. The internet alone has become the online equivalent to the side of the road, in that litter flanks the information superhighway.
Inspiration’s got a lot to do with creating work that’s memorable, impactful and deserving of a high price tag.
(Just because your smartphone can make a video doesn’t mean you need to junk up my News Feed with it.)
We live in a time when a magazine you’re just going to toss after reading runs you $4.99. Did you know that in 1962, it cost 12 cents to read Spider-Man’s first adventure? Today, catching up with Spidey means plopping down $3.99 for a single comic book.
Not a lot of this stuff is worthy of the high price tag. If creators give consumers something worth their money, maybe companies can lose the gimmicks and we can all go back to ignoring U2’s albums the old-fashioned way.
Personally, I think inspiration’s got a lot to do with creating work that’s memorable, impactful and deserving of a high price tag.
Inspiration is everywhere
As someone who’s always gravitated [like a neodymium magnet] to the artsier side of life, I can tell you I’ve created my best work while inspired – like when I slaved over a short story to impress that cute girl in my high school creative writing class, or created a slick short film to impress that cute girl in my college video production course.
Inspiration is everywhere, we just need to seize it and channel its power into our work.
And I don’t care if you’re writing the next great American novel or a blurb on a soup can – that magic needs to be there. It’s the writer’s job to take words and string them together into something people are proud to have read.
I don’t care if you’re writing the next great American novel or a blurb on a soup can – that magic needs to be there.
I’m no math whiz – I was an English major, after all – but I know enough to say that a creator + inspiration = something pretty darn special.
Earn that burger
I could spend time talking about what inspires the likes of Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, but neither of them would reply to my Tweets. So instead, I decided to talk to some of Brafton’s finest to see what makes them tick.
Writer Alex Vancil follows something of a routine before starting his workday. Water, caffeine, exercise and sometimes meditation all help Vancil calibrate in the early hours of the day.
In a time when writers can pretty much work from any location so long as they have a laptop and access to the Internet, writer Kate Tully prefers to work at the office.
“There’s something about being completely surrounded by fellow writers that motivates me to complete more work,” Tully said.
Tully also provided insight into her personal reward system. If she finishes a set amount of work by noon, she treats herself to something tasty, like a burger from Five Guys. If she’s behind, she punishes herself with a salad lunch.Meanwhile, Nick Kakolowski – named Brafton’s top writer for 2013 – said that his clients have a direct impact on how inspired he feels.
“I find it much easier to think creatively and engage more deeply with what I’m writing when I know the client cares as much about the content as I do,” Kakolowski said. “Clients who truly partner with me and collaborate to create the best articles possible leave me feeling more connected to their brand and inspired to write great content.”
Marketers: Consider collaborating
While marketers may or may not be the ones pecking away at a keyboard or dreaming up engaging topics for blog pieces every day, they can directly influence how inspired their writers feel.
Writer Alex Dorian is all for stepping into the client’s world, whether that’s through a visit to its office or a face-to-face meeting.
In addition, Dorian welcomes any opportunity to work with the technical products he writes about. Not only is it fun to play with new software and hardware, but it helps the writer slip into the shoes of the customers his clients are trying to attract.
Once someone realizes what it is that gets their creative gears going, it’s like a revelation.
Tully also keeps her clients’ customers in mind – especially those who have fallen in love with the goods and services she’s promoting.
“Hearing how passionate other people are about a particular company is definitely a great way to get good content,” Tully said.
Unfortunately, there’s no universal formula for finding inspiration as a writer. I personally get my best ideas in the shower. But I just can’t see companies investing in a shower for every writer – not to mention how problematic such a system would be in an open office environment.
Figuring out what exactly inspires a writer takes time, and all parties involved in the content-creation process should be patient. But once someone realizes what it is that gets their creative gears going, it’s like a revelation.
Of course, any creative types who find themselves struggling to become inspired can try smashing two magnets together. They just need to make sure they have a fire extinguisher nearby.