One way I’ve learned to recognize truth in this life is to look for paradox. If there’s a paradox, it’s likely there is also truth to be found. One paradox many of us are familiar with is that of the slave who becomes a ruler because he is indispensable.
In your quest to write blog posts to market your business, you have probably often felt stuck trying to come up with ideas for posts. And that’s probably because you sit there in front of a blank screen thinking: Okay, now I’m going to write a blog post.
And of course, nothing happens. Then you decide you need to do “research” and you mean well, but eventually you end up watching cat videos again (all roads on the internet lead to cat videos).
You don’t just sit there and order up some inspiration. It doesn’t work that way.
Your Reticular Whatchamajigger
Inspiration is not a virgin birth. It’s not an immaculate conception. Two partners are required to “get it on” so that inspiration can be conceived: your reticular activating system and outside stimulus (oh, baby!).
Right now you’re probably wondering what the hell kind of blog posts are you reading? Stay with me, it will be worth it. In fact, it’s going to get weirder, because before I even get to the part about being a slave, I’m going to talk about junk science and magic.
Junk Science and Magic
Your reticular activating system is part of your brain responsible for quite a lot of weird things, like regulating brain function during sleep vs. being awake. I’m sure real neuroscientists would scoff at this concept being applied to marketing and see it as a dumbing down of science or even a twisting of it for the purposes of selling. But marketers have long used the term Reticular Activating System as a way to describe the phenomenon you experience where you see more of something that’s been on your mind, lately. The R.A.S. is related to shifts in your attention where you go to a higher state of alert.
Here’s an example: if you buy Ford Fiesta, you now notice every single Ford Fiesta on the road. Did the actual number of Ford Fiestas increase suddenly? Of course not. You’re just noticing them, now, because you bought one, so it’s on your mind. It may not be the most scientific thing in the world to attribute that to the R.A.S., but I guess until we do have an accurate name for that phenomena, R.A.S. will have to do. And it doesn’t feel like science at all… it feels more like magic.
But here’s the thing: you have control over this. You decide what’s on your mind, for the most part, and in turn, that dictates what will catch your eye as you go through your daily life.
When you’re walking down the street and you see a clapboard sign for a local coffee joint with stuff drawn in chalk all over it, what do you really see? Do you see a coffee special? If you really wanted some coffee, it might jump out at you. If you’re a Star Wars geek and you see a drawing of Admiral Ackbar on the sign saying “It’s a Frap!” that might grab your attention more easily than for other people who just aren’t that into Star Wars.
You know what I see when I run into a sign like that? I see marketing. I wonder if it holds a marketing lesson I can apply for my own business but I also wonder if I can make a lesson out of it for you in a blog post.
The Artist at the Craft Fair
Ever been to a craft fair? The big ones are amazing, with over a hundred booths filled with artists of all kinds selling their work. How much differently does an artist see the craft fair compared to a non-artist? If this is your first craft fair as a seller, you are watching the other artists around you for clues about what to do (and not to do).
When you first pick up a guitar and learn to play, suddenly you hear music differently than you did before. You’re not just listening to the music, you’re listening for how the guitar is played.
If you’re doing content marketing, you have to be the “artist at the craft fair.” You are the new guitar player suddenly hearing music in a different way.
When you begin doing this, inspiration will hit you over and over and over again, from every which way. The weirdest, smallest things will trigger it. Obvious things, like your interactions with your own clients. But it could also happen as you observe people talking to a cashier in a grocery store. Or see a father dealing with his child in public. It could be anything.
The problem with this is that inspiration will strike and you won’t capture it. Recognizing it when it does is the only the first step. The next step is capturing it.
If Lightning Strikes
If lightning strikes and there’s no one around to hear it, does it make a sound? Kudos to you if you know the reasons why the answer to that is “no.”
If inspiration strikes, and there’s no way to capture it, does it help you create amazing blog posts? Perhaps, if you have an equally amazing memory. Over the years I’ve put various amounts of effort into my killing brain cells and I’ve always been pretty absent-minded, anyway. So I never count on my ability to remember something inspiring when it happens.
- Sitting at a desk, surfing news and feeds online: Evernote or similar makes a wonderful inspiration-capturing tool. You can clip entire web pages or jot down quick notes. Evernote can “read” text in an image for you and you can record voice notes, too. Some people prefer pen & paper for this sort of thing. It’s important to use what you know you’ll use without thinking about it.
- Out and about, you see something that inspires: Again, Evernote on a mobile device will work wonders, and our old friends pen & paper will still work as well. You’re in your car? A dedicated electronic voice recorder device might be the thing because it’s dead-simple to operate without looking at it.
The tech you use doesn’t matter as long as it works for you and you instinctively reach for it.
Become a Slave to Inspiration, and It will Serve You Well
Finally, we come back to the paradox. If you surrender yourself to inspiration, and remain constantly vigilant to its appearance at any moment, it will come. Some outside stimulus will catch your attention and make a baby with your Reticular Activating System, giving birth to inspiration, which you must have a cradle for or that baby will die before you can get it home and nourish it into an amazing blog post (that is some crazy metaphorical action, right there).
You must actively, consciously decide to give yourself up to inspiration. You must become its slave, ready to do its bidding at a moment’s notice. Then, it will, paradoxically, serve you well.
Are you ready to become a slave to inspiration? Can you capture it when it strikes? What’s stopping you? Let’s talk in the comments.
photo credit: http://www.smokingninjapirate.com/?p=165
photo credit: Evernote on Google Play