There’s no question that the internet is oversaturated with content. Even a search for “creative content writing tips” produces over 300 million results.

With so much competition, how can you make sure that your content stays afloat in this vast sea of words, thoughts and ideas?

The key is a combination of creativity, curiosity and risk-taking.

Sure, SEO is a great way to make your articles rank higher, but as the saying goes, “content is king.” Your writing needs to be highly unique and engaging in order to delight your audience and stand out from the crowd.

Want to fight creativity killers and boost your out-of-the-box thinking?

Read on to learn some creative content writing techniques I’ve discovered throughout my career, plus insightful recommendations from marketing experts who have joined us on The Content Mix podcast.

1. Don’t let perfectionism lead to inaction

Curiosity didn’t kill the cat. At least that’s not what poet Ben Jonson had in mind when he coined the phrase in 1598. What he actually wrote was “Care killed the cat”—and by care, he meant worry, fretting and inaction.

Basically, the cat was dogged by self-doubt and hesitation. It cared too much, and that’s something that every content creator can relate to. Writing is a vulnerable and intricate process, so it’s no wonder that most of us are perfectionists.

But in our quest for the best, we sometimes stick to what we’re used to instead of taking risks. And creativity isn’t about staying in your comfort zone. It’s about getting inspired by everything around you, experimenting with different tones and concepts and just going for it.

To help me turn stagnation into creation, I try to get someone to hold me accountable for projects that I’m procrastinating on. My excuses seem a lot weaker when I say them out loud.

Amal Ahmed, UK-based content marketing and PR specialist and Content Mix podcast guest, agrees that a combination of creativity and risk-taking is the key to success:

“It’s never going to be perfect. Get it to 90%, put it out there, learn from your mistakes, and keep doing the stuff that works.”

2. Use adversity as a way to evolve

Humans have always used creativity to solve problems and get out of sticky situations.

Our early ancestors escaped cold weather and starvation by figuring out how to control fire. Isaac Newton made some of his most important discoveries during the Great Plague of London in 1665. The post-war counterculture period of the 1960s turned society upside down, and changed the world in ways that we still celebrate on a daily basis.

And in 2020, we faced an unprecedented pandemic: the largest global crisis since World War II. But despite the collapse of many businesses and colossal changes in the way we live our lives, companies are adapting and innovating like never before as they fight to survive.

“During a time of crisis, creativity and drive can flourish. At the moment we’re seeing huge and rapid advances in all kinds of sectors, from health to EdTech to communication to design.” – Jessie Brechin

Everyone strives to be a pioneer in their industry, and the people and businesses that succeed are those that seek out fresh solutions and embrace change. They’re resilient trailblazers who overcome obstacles and set an example for everyone else.

The value of vulnerability

As a content creator, you can incorporate this strategy directly into your writing. Include personal anecdotes that reveal your own vulnerability and make you more relatable. Turn setbacks into opportunities, and challenges into chances to show what you’re made of.

For example, when former VeraContent intern Caitlin Maguire found out that applications were no longer being accepted for a role she wanted to apply for, she didn’t give up. Instead, she shared the super creative CV she’d developed for the role on LinkedIn—and went viral. 

Aidoia Puig-Delfin, UK-based marketing and communications manager and one of our very first podcast guests, puts it this way:

“The more challenging the industry is, the more creative you have to be with your content to capture people’s attention.”

3. Read absolutely everything

Reading sharpens and nourishes your brain. When you read, you visualize the action and put yourself into the characters’ shoes, which gets your creative juices flowing. And content creation is all about storytelling—so what better place to find inspiration than stories?

Although I usually support a “quality over quantity” mindset, in this particular case you should read as much as possible, including all genres and formats

For example, The Content Marketing Institute recommends reading literary fiction for empathy, poetry for clarity and precision, and the classics for learning about storytelling structure and strategy.

Discover the best content and marketing books to read right now.

Leandro Sánchez de Medina, global social media manager at ACCIONA, explains how reading can help you optimize digital content:

“Reading helps you find new ways of thinking and talking about topics, which you can use to write captions and make the most of your posts. Read as much as you can—especially poetry!”

4. Be curious about the world

Ideas come from experience. Every time you expose yourself to new stimuli, you’re building up a database of creativity that you draw upon when you need a new idea.

Having a sense of curiosity about the outside world is key when it comes to creative content writing

That’s why it’s vital to feed your curiosity. Take up new hobbies, go out for walks and say “yes” to as many opportunities as possible. While working, switch up your surroundings by sitting at a different desk in the office or a different room in your house, or heading to a cafe.

You might find that a change of pace inspires a new idea—if so, write it down right away. That way you won’t have to keep drumming up inspiration on cue, because you already did it on the metro or during your weekly walk to the supermarket.

When I’m walking around or commuting, I usually listen to music. Sometimes when I get an idea, I write down the song that was playing at the time to help kickstart my memory later. You might also jot down where you were, or other cues to help you recreate the same mindset.

Patrick Neyret, global director of Purposeful Brands and Marketing Transformation at Danone, agrees that curiosity is key to creative pursuits: 

“In marketing, a sense of curiosity is very, very important. There’s a lot to be learned in the day-to-day stuff, but also from what’s happening outside. I always try to get inspired by music, sports, design… things across the board can fuel creativity.”

5. Draw inspiration from competitors and colleagues

It’s difficult to stay ahead of the competition when you don’t know what you’re up against. There’s nothing wrong with checking out what your competitors are doing; you may even garner creative insights and “eureka” moments from being a bit nosy.

When I worked in SEO content strategy, I was always on the lookout for new blog post ideas. in addition to reading a lot about the sector I worked in, I often took a peek at our competitors to find similarities, differences and gaps to fill in our content. 

In fact, doing a competitor analysis can actually make your content more unique. You can see which topics are flooding the internet, and either put your own spin on them or avoid them completely.

This is where a detailed spreadsheet comes in handy. Identify all your direct and indirect competitors, dissect their content strategies, and categorize the types of content they publish and the topics they write about. Remember: it’s about inspiration, not copying their ideas.

According to Vincenzo Aprile, senior social media and campaign manager at Oceans Apart:

“You have to get your hands dirty, test a lot and be curious. See what your competitors are doing and do it better.”

Surround yourself with people who challenge and inspire you

Competitors aren’t the only ones who can bring out your creative streak. Jack Dyson, global head of content strategy at SAP Customer Experience, tells us how he draws inspiration from his peers:

“Being around creative and interesting people who challenge you is critical. I’ve always been very careful to work with people who inspire me to do more and to look at things in a different way.”

One of the best creative content writing tips is to surround yourself with people who inspire and challenge you

6. Use rejection for reflection

When I was a child, I used to write about absolutely everything. One day, I remember walking into my classroom to find two of my friends laughing hysterically at a story I’d written.

They couldn’t get over the fact that at seven years old, I hadn’t quite mastered the art of capitalization. That was the first time I felt the sting of writing rejection, and it was rough. But since then, I’ve learned to manage it better.

Writing is a way of exposing your innermost thoughts and ideas. Even if you’re writing about things that have nothing to do with you, rejection can cut deep. But it’s a rite of passage for all writers; there’s simply no way to avoid it.

Try not to take rejection personally. There are a million reasons why your pitch or a piece of content may not have been selected this time around—and many of them have nothing to do with you. But if you are given specific feedback, take note. Actionable constructive criticism is an incredible asset for professional development.

Tip: If you’re hoping to get hired as a content creator, make sure your CV and writing samples are tailored to the voice and values of each company you apply to.

Caridad González, Spain-based global social media manager at Wall Street English, has some advice for dealing with rejection from readers:

“Embrace negative feedback and try to improve upon it. If you do so, the same user who’s criticizing you one day might be praising you the next.”

Creative content writing comes with practice

Creativity is a muscle that needs constant exercise. Keep these tips in mind, but remember that the best way to boost your creativity is to just keep writing.

As you progress as a content writer, try to cast perfectionism aside, capitalize on adversity and read as much as you can. Stay curious, surround yourself with inspiration and don’t be afraid of rejection.

Above all, stay true to what made you a writer in the first place—whether it’s a calling to communicate with people across the world, a desire to tell meaningful stories or simply a need to express yourself through words.

You’ll be on your way to becoming an ideas machine in no time.

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