The thing I love most about marketing is also the thing that keeps me up at night.

It’s the constant challenge of finding new answers to the same questions.

In marketing, and especially digital marketing, where the pace is so much faster, being able to think on your feet – creatively – is a serious advantage. The core questions never really change:

  • What is our message?
  • Who are we talking to?
  • What should we tell them?

But when you’re looking at a new media landscape, the questions are more subtle – and challenging:

  • How are we telling our story?
  • Are we grabbing enough attention?
  • What emotions are we provoking?
  • Are we doing it well enough?
  • How can we do it better?

And sometimes – just sometimes – you won’t have all the answers.

That’s normal. Trust me.

So what do you do when the blank mind strikes?

At the end of last year, I made a point of having really honest conversations with our team, and some of our clients.

I wanted to know how they dealt with creative burnout. How did they find inspiration when it didn’t come naturally?

Where do good ideas come from?

A stressed mind isn’t a creative one.

Without exception, every single person I spoke to had the same starting point.

When your mind is racing, the last thing to arrive are the good ideas.

When you’re stressed, and trying to force yourself to perform, it just doesn’t work.

In short, the best ideas come when you stop thinking.

The best ideas come when you stop thinking. Click To Tweet

Being able to quiet your mind is skill that’s hard to learn, but makes a huge difference.

I’ve become a big fan of mindfulness – and it’s made a huge difference to my productivity.

Creativity doesn’t happen on command.

It’s ridiculous that we hire designers to work at a desk between 9-5, Monday to Friday – as if their creativity is something that can be “switched on” at 9am each workday.

It's ridiculous that we hire designers to work at a desk between 9-5, Monday to Friday. Click To Tweet

Back in the distant past, I was a musician. I even got paid for it, which makes me one of the lucky ones. I loved (almost) every minute of it. I was really fortunate

But there were times when it could be pretty stressful. Times where I needed to create something to a deadline; where I would sit at the keyboard, mic on, waiting for “it” to happen.

And whatever happened, it was never my best work. Most of it never saw the light of day.

And then there were times where it would just work. Normally when I was busy doing something else – and an idea would come, and I’d scramble around trying to find something to capture it with before it disappeared.

I had a dictaphone with me at all times – and each month it would be full of new ideas that I could work with.

Humming into a dictaphone in the middle of Marks & Spencers can get you some pretty odd looks.

But it was totally worth it. Those recordings saved me hours of stress.

And that’s the thing: be prepared to capture your creativity at all times. Don’t force it, but be ready to record it when it happens.

Famously, Paul McCartney claimed that the entire song “Yesterday” came to him in his sleep.

It’s a bold claim, but I can completely believe it.

Seek inspiration from others.

We run a group on Facebook called “Zero BS Marketing”. I might have mentioned it. You should join.

When I set it up, I didn’t really know what to expect – I just wanted a space where people could come together and chat about what really works for them in their marketing.

I try to post really useful content in the group as often as I can; I don’t always get it right, but that doesn’t really matter – it’s what happens next that really counts.

Discussions are sparked – people bounce ideas off each other; they share their own content; ask questions; help each other out. It’s like a melting pot of great marketing ideas.

And here’s the great thing – you don’t need to reinvent the wheel to find inspiration from others. Just off the top of my head, here are a few sources of inspiration that you can tap in to right now:

  • Podcasts
  • Books
  • Industry Reports
  • YouTube
  • Mastermind Groups
  • Google+ Communities
  • Ted Talks
  • Industry Publications
  • Facebook Groups
  • Training Videos
  • In-person Training

The list goes on.

The important thing is this: seek out inspiration, rather than waiting for it to find you.

(Be honest, you thought G+ was dead, didn’t you?)

Be kind to yourself.

Above all, the most important lesson came from one of our clients.

We’d helped them launch a campaign at the end of last year, and it didn’t perform as well as we’d hoped.

It wasn’t a disaster, but at the same time, it hadn’t exactly set the world on fire.

I felt pretty bad about it; and spent a lot of time trying to see what had “gone wrong”.

I think that process is important – I try to instil a learning culture in the business.

But it’s easy to take this too far, and be hyper critical of yourself when things don’t work as well as you’d hoped.

And this is counter-productive; it means you miss the opportunities to learn, and more importantly, adds another layer of stress to the next project.

It’s not possible to have the right answers every time, and that’s ok.

So be kind to yourself too.

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Also published on Medium.

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David has worked with countless UK charities, businesses, and schools - with a brilliant track record of helping them with their biggest challenges. David is the founder of the Impact group - including Impact Charity Advisors, Impact Business Advisors, and Impact Education Support.