I had a client ask me recently “I’ve been struggling with content creation lately. How can I tell if I need to shift gears and take a break, or just sit down and get it done?”
It’s a good question. And one I struggle with a lot.
Assuming you have clear messaging, identified content themes and a communication plan, the writing itself can just feel tough some days.
One of my favorite authors Ann Lamott says: “How to write: Stop not writing. Get and keep your butt in the chair.” I’ve followed her advice for decades, and it’s helped in my writing, my life and in my business.
I’m a ‘butt in chair’ kind of person. My programming tells me to just get it done. No matter what. The good thing about this is that it helps me turn out regular content. The problem, however, is that it doesn’t allow room for anything else – such as another priority, an emotional issue that needs tending to, the tug on the heart to something else really is important.
And it can be crushing when things aren’t working.
Others tend to fall a little closer to the ‘a break will inspire me!’ approach. If their copy isn’t flowing that morning, they turn to work on something else. Or they might take a walk, listen to music, or go outside. They come back later inspired and able to look at the piece freshly. It’s a much kinder strategy, for sure. At the same time, sometimes when that’s a default response, it can lead to problems. If every time you hit a tough or uncomfortable moment creating content or messages for your audience you get up and do something else, you might end up getting behind on your content schedule. While that’s certainly not the end of the world, it can lead to not showing up for your business as consistently as you need to be.
No Rules Here
The real issue with the question this client asked is that it’s not an either-or situation. There just isn’t a hard and fast rule to apply.
Even if you tend to favor one approach over the other, there are going to be times where your preferred tactic just doesn’t work. I remember once I was sitting working on an article, and it was agonizing. Nothing I was typing made any sense. My paragraphs were going in circles. I kept losing the thread of what I wanted to share. Still I kept at it. The entire afternoon the clock ticked on the mantle, my hands tapped and backspaced.
Until finally, my daughter came home from school and burst into my office with a story to tell me. I gratefully stood up, followed her to the kitchen and listened. I came back the next morning and wrote the post in 20 minutes.
One of my teachers suggested I write a big, brightly colored note for myself at the top of my computer. “When it’s not working, GET OUT OF YOUR CHAIR!” I need to be reminded of this frequently.
What Sounds Delicious?
And yet, when you’re struggling with content creation, it’s much more nuanced than ‘butt in chair’ or ‘take a break.’ Thinking of it like this is like being hungry and believing your only choice is to eat a large, brown rice avocado bowl or an Angus burger and fries. You probably have an idea about which meal you think you should choose in that moment, but what you really need is probably much more subtle than that.
You might be only the slightest bit hungry and a handful of almonds will do. Maybe your body needs a shot of protein and iron. Or maybe you’re craving something sweet, and a dish of yogurt or a tangy bowl of melon is what’s needed. Or maybe foods not the answer at all – it’s water, or a stretch, or a nap. The point is the answer that’s right for you in that moment is precise to you, and is worth paying attention to.
The same’s the case with your content creation process. If you notice you’re struggling, don’t adopt an either-or perspective. Try listening to your own inner wisdom about what’ the right next step
Five Steps to Figure Out What’s Right for You
The first step is to recognize how you’re feeling. This is important even if you don’t want to be feeling the way you are. Maybe you’re frustrated or feeling time pressured. Maybe you thought you’d kicked your Inner Critic to the curb and here it is, a fiery eyed editor, changing every sentence you start to type for your blog post. Maybe the argument with your spouse this morning is pressing on you. Acknowledge it all, even the fact that you don’t want to feel that way, and accept that you are where you are.
Take a few minutes to get still and ground. If you’re comfortable doing so, close your eyes. Center by taking three deep breaths (link) and climb into your body. Now, ask yourself, what does my heart need here?
Stay open to whatever answer comes to you and as my teacher, Mark Silver says, be willing to be surprised. You might be hear words or see images. You might sense a symbol or a knowing. You might experience something totally new. If you think the answer is going to be “keep on trying” and what you get instead is “watch cartoons” or “call Gilly” allow that to be the case and write down anything that comes to you.
Accept what comes to you through your inner guidance and don’t start second guessing yourself. It’s really important because you’re probably going to be tempted to overrule what you hear. This is especially true if you’re inner wisdom is guiding to you something against your programmed purpose. I Trust your inner wisdom and follow it’s guidance.
Then notice what happens. When you followed what your heart says, what happened? Did your heart tell you to take a break and go out? Did you go to the library and find a book with the perfect quote that you could then turn into the focus of the blog? Or maybe you sat out on the patio with your laptop for a set amount of time and found your words started flowing?
Notice with all your attention and write down what happens in your journal. This helps make it real fand develops your trust in your own inner wisdom.
If writing your blog post or your social media messages is something you struggle with don’t worry. There’s a way through to more ease. And it might not be what you think it is. If you ask your heart for guidance, and then allow and accept your own inner wisdom, what you whip up will be just what you need.