Career writers and editors know how hard it can be to keep their writing fresh; it’s much easier to default to comfortable templates and prose. When you find that your content feels a bit flat, dry, or tired, exploration and experimentation is the answer. A few strategies can give you the boost you need to keep your writing interesting—for the reader and for you.
Find inspiration in others
Often, staying on top of trends and what other authors and artists are doing can spark ideas. There are a few go-to resources that are hubs for creative work; one such resource is Behance. Combing through the ways designers and artists present content can provide inspiration for writers, especially when you need to play around with short, pithy content such as titles, taglines, or selling lines. Sites like this, with crowdsourced creative work, can house anything from magazine covers to infographics to photography. When a design strikes your fancy, pay attention to its most effective aspects. For example, is the design amplifying simple language in a captivating way? Learning what keeps you interested as a consumer of content also makes you a better producer of it.
Your favorite newsletters can also help inspire you on everything from tone to subject matter. Girls’ Night In is a simple but highly entertaining newsletter with recommendations on books, apps, products, and more. The tone is conversational, and its design is minimalist, but it delivers information effectively. Those practices can be applied to almost any form of writing—especially marketing and blog writing. Another newsletter that has mastered this kind of format is unsnackable, which dives into obscure international snacks and fast food. Just like Girls’ Night In, the tone is casual and personal, but the author also maximizes photos to make the snacks—and the content—extra delicious.
Having some go-to sites or newsletters when you’re feeling stuck or when your writing feels stale can help you generate ideas and think of new ways to present content or shift the tone.
Rethink how the story unfolds
Playing with the organization of content in longer-form pieces is an exciting way to keep writing interesting and readers engaged. Experimenting with the chronology and weaving in new but relevant subtopics can breathe new life into an idea.
Hanif Abdurraqib is a master of experimenting with the organization of content. Read any of his essays, and you’ll notice how he starts with a broad topic, dives into myriad different but related subtopics, and returns to the main point by the end effortlessly—each subtopic adding to his broader argument while offering a new perspective. One essay of his that does this especially well is “Nine Considerations of Black People in Space” in his book A Little Devil in America.
Lisa Lutz’s How to Start a Fire plays with chronology as it tells the story of three college friends over the span of twenty years. The book seamlessly guides readers backwards and forwards through different moments in time and geographies. Each chapter reveals something new, all contributing to a climactic and perhaps unexpected ending.
Regardless of how you organize content, always keep your thesis in mind. Subtopics should relate to that central point, and if you stray from the main path of the story to dive into another topic, you should always come back to the argument. Readers should never wonder why they’re reading what you’ve written.
While all good narratives have a beginning, middle, and end, playing around with the order or the ideas can work when done well—and it will keep your reader curious.
Explore new formats
If your sentences or storylines feel stale, try experimenting with format. Does your content have to be an article, or can it work as a charticle or in a scrollytelling style? Would it make sense to interview an expert and turn your topic into a Q&A? If there’s a clear chronological order to the storyline, try making it an infographic or photo essay. For more technical pieces, find opportunities to incorporate design elements, charts, or photography.
Magazines are one of the best mediums to refer to when you need inspiration on formats and stylistic tweaks. Flip through the pages of Bon Appétit, for example, and you’ll notice that from page-to-page, you’re presented with a mix of formats and styles. Starting with a long-form travel narrative and moving to a photo essay featuring full-page spreads of glistening meat and perfectly cooked radicchio, you might end on an illustrated infographic about how to cook an egg or chop an onion.
Keeping content fresh is as much about the words and insights as it is the way it’s presented, and there’s no one way to tell a story. If a sentence makes you sleepy, reconsider whether it needs to be a full sentence at all—or if it does just as well as a caption to a great graphic.
Content marketing can be both functional and playful. Next time you’re stuck, try stepping out of your comfort zone to present information in new, creative ways.
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