Blonde Sense

5 Ways to Overcoming Creative Blocks

Creativity is a big part of what I do. From dreaming up campaigns to angling a photo properly to even writing this blog post, I am constantly engaged in producing original work. Yet as any creative knows, there are times when the social media Muses decide to take a vacation from their regular visits, & that’s when I start to panic.

But before I start hyperventilating, I remember that there are a few routes one can take to successfully circumnavigate nearly any creative block. Here are but a few of my favorite ways to overcoming any lack of inspiration.

1.) Walk away.

From time to time, the best way to deal with a creative block can also be the easiest. You see, the subconscious mind is a powerful problem solver that works behind the scenes of waking life by its own mysterious methods. Walking away (like, literally, going outside & ambulating) & focusing on something else can often be the best opportunity for the subconscious to pick at the pieces of whatever problem you were working on before delivering to your conscious mind a new, perhaps enlightening arrangement of said pieces. Even if you don’t have an “a-ha!” kind of moment while taking a break from your problem, any interruption in your work may break cripplingly recursive habits of thought, thus providing you with a different (and hopefully creative) perspective. That being said…

2.) Sometimes, you’ve just gotta work through it.

You’re not always going to solve a problem by just “walking away” for a stretch. In an over-scheduled world brimming with demands & deadlines, taking a break isn’t always an option. And even when you do have the time to leave a problem alone for a while, that doesn’t mean you should, especially if you’re doing so just to procrastinate. Whether you’re too lazy or too scared of failure to put in the hard work that is being creative, there are times when the only way to overcome a creative block is by dealing with it head-on. Willpower may very well see you through to the end.

3.) Just draw (or write) freely.

This is really only an exercise in momentarily shutting up the occasionally incapacitating critical voice that each one of us has in our respective heads. By free associating, one can open her mind to theretofore ignored ideas, let alone, to connections between ideas—links that could prove to be useful to a creative problem solving task. However, the point isn’t necessarily to produce anything of value (i.e., relevant to what you’re working on). Again, you’re just trying to break free of negative thinking, which inhibits creativity. Alternatively, you could come up with lists of certain numbers of “things” such as people you’d like to meet or places you’d like to visit. Again, the purpose of such an activity is to free your brain from enslavement to habits like perfectionism that are antithetical to creative thinking.

4.) Set up arbitrary parameters for yourself.

In the face of seemingly endless possibilities that a lack of guidelines affords, you might become overwhelmed, & therefore unable to move forward. If that’s that case, then you should consider forcing limits upon yourself. Of course, you have the freedom to move however you may wish between such boundaries. But if you’re the kind of person who thinks too much (which is not always a bad thing), then you might want to consider, say, avoiding using the letter “e”, a feat that’s actually been accomplished already in a novel.

5.) Talk to someone.

Finally, if you’re all out of ideas on what to do, then don’t be so hubristic as to think you couldn’t use some help from another. Find a trusted source with whom you could talk aloud & freely about the problem. This could entail simply defining the problem for yourself to another person or it could even mean brainstorming possible solutions with them. Whatever the problem & whoever the person, there’s almost virtually no harm in getting a fresh perspective.

By now, I hope you’ve realized that blocks are merely momentary obstacles that are ultimately surmountable, so don’t be so hard on yourself the next time your text cursor is blinking menacingly on a blank page. Just loosen up, remember what I wrote, & you’ll be well on your way to being creative yet again.

Creatively yours,
KM

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Stop using social media (but only for a bit)

Did you hear the “news” that Facebook was designed to be addictive? If you’re one of the 2+ billion people who have used the platform, then you’re probably not surprised. Such news is really just common knowledge.

According to the founding president of Facebook Sean Parker, “[t]he thought process that went into building…Facebook…was all about: ‘How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?’” Their answer, which has taken on numerous forms ranging from likes & comments to “pull-to-refresh”, seems to have worked. One analytics company reckons that American consumers now spend 5 hours a day on their smartphones. At such a rate, the average American will spend 5 years of her life on social media, another company reasons. (And by one account, you will spend over a year of your life just looking for something to watch. )

By no means do I mean to cast a negative judgment on our collective digital habits. (Well, maybe I am being slightly critical, if only because I could, say, get really good at playing the guitar if I worked at it for five years. Instead, I’m just liking memes that speak to me on a personal level. ) Social media has connected people the world over in ways unimaginable (I presume) to the average person 100 or so years ago. If bringing people together is a good thing, then social media has been a boon to society.

But it is possible to have too much of “a good thing”. Even though my job entails that 1) I use social media & 2) others use social media, I still need to take breaks from all of the scrolling & tapping that attends phone use (lest I become arthritic before 30). So, instead of obsessively stalking a Tinder match’s extended network on social media, consider putting down the phone for a few hours & go do literally anything else. If you need some inspiration on what you could possibly do during said few hours (other than “read a book”), consider partaking in one of the following activities I myself like to engage in during those times when I tell Siri to zip it for a little bit.

Meditate

I know the thought of just sitting & “doing nothing” might sound absurd if not impossible, but the many positive health benefits should make you reconsider your stance on the matter. Becoming mindful is more than just closing your eyes & keeping silent; it takes a little more effort than you might think. As such, consider downloading an app like Headspace that includes a coach who will guide you through simple ten or so minute sessions.

Go outside

It’s as simple as opening the door and stepping out, but really, going outside can be an event in and of itself. Plan a picnic! Throw a frisbee! Go hiking! I don’t care. Just put on some athletic shoes & reconnect with nature during your time away from social media.

Journal

When’s the last time you didn’t avoid dealing with your thoughts & emotions? If you can’t answer the question easily, then you might want to take some of the time you spend away from your phone writing in a journal. What’s been on your mind lately? Are you on track with your life? Journaling phone-free will definitely help you answer those questions about yourself that no BuzzFeed quiz can.

Visit a theater

If everything I’ve said so far is a little too “crunchy” for you, well, there’s always another option for going phone-free for a bit: visiting a theater. I would highly recommend seeing a play, if only because it’s an experience that grounds you in the present-ness of flesh-and-blood actors performing live in front of you. But if that‘s not your thing, there’s always the cinema. When’s the last time you watched a whole movie through without looking at your phone? Make some allowances for getting sucked into somebody else’s world for a change. Who knows, you might like it there.

And when you’re finally done with your vacation from social media, don’t forget: I’ll be here.

Namaste,
KM

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Organic Reach Is Dying But Your Efforts to Produce Quality Content Shouldn’t

Social media marketing is harder than it looks. Why, there’s more to it than finding the best GIF to use in a post (which itself can be a rather challenging task—I mean, there are only so many GIF-able moments from Keeping Up With the Kardashians).

It took me 10 minutes to find this GIF that’s only somewhat related to my point, thus proving my point.

 

Perhaps the biggest challenge we face is generating traffic. Indeed, 63% of marketers asked in a HubSpot-sponsored survey think as much. How we get people to take notice of our content is always on our mind. And since at least 2014, it’s been increasingly difficult to get our content in front of people—for free, that is.

The best things in life are suggested donation.

The best things in life are suggested donation.

 

The thing is: the number of people that would see a Facebook business page’s regular, non-promoted posts (the amount is what marketers call “organic reach) has been shrinking. According to one report, organic reach fell from 16.5% in February of 2012 to 6.5% by March of 2014, & the ebb hasn’t stopped. Another analysis concluded that organic reach dropped by 42% in the first half of 2016 alone. Marketers have not taken the news well.

[screams internally]

 

But that’s not even the worst of it. The number crunchers at Social@Ogilvy for one suspect that the trend will continue until organic reach eventually goes the way of Tyrannosaurus. Indeed, as marketer Joey Hodges puts it: “Organic reach on Facebook is a thing of the past, practically extinct.” Yikes. But marketers need not despair. They just need to return to (or keep on) practicing a few principles, including creating quality content. That means producing material that resonates with the beliefs & interests of your target audiences. But over and above that, marketers need to produce content that is so eye-catchingly original as to be impossible to forget.

“They said WHAT now?”

 

Of course, a marketer can always just pay for a promoted post (assuming their budget allows for it). This is & (presumable) will always be the sure-fire way to ensure that your content gets noticed. But the question of whether your content will get engagement is a different question entirely. Don’t waste your dollars on content that is anything but smart & imaginative. Really, it doesn’t matter how many people see your post if your post is so uninspired as to inspire no one to engage with it.

Shania is having none of your content

 

Ultimately, the only way to guarantee that your posts get the kind of engagement you want from them before they are overtaken by the 293,000+ new statuses that are updated every 60 seconds is if they stop people dead in their thumb-scrolling. So, before you click “Post” again on what was originally Zuck’s way of finding a girlfriend, think to yourself: will people remember this, & if not, is it time I set up a meeting with Krissi? Asking such questions, you may very well find yourself in the near future at the Blonde office.

Impossible to forget,
KM

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The Spookiest Films to Stream This Halloweekend

If you’ve been religiously reading my posts (because why wouldn’t you be?), then you know that I love sharing with y’all 1) things I’m eating & 2) things I’m streaming because yes, I am a BuzzFeed cliché. Don’t get me wrong—I’m not only ever in bed with a remote in one hand & a burrito in the other. I do enjoy going out with friends on the weekend as much as the next social media specialist. But sometimes, I eschew the nightlife because I’d much rather a date with a blanket & “My List”.

And if you’re feeling remotely similarly anytime during this holiest of holiday weekends, then enjoy the following list of creepy, frightening, and & all around blood-curdling movies that are sure to get you in the spooky frame of mind for the season. (Feel free to invite friends over & make a night of it—that is, if you dare…let them drink all of your wine.)

Donnie Darko (Available on Netflix)

Before Jake Gyllenhaal was an Oscar-nominated actor, he was Donnie Darko—a uniquely troubled high schooler whose visits from a disturbing “rabbit” named Frank lead him to explore the “philosophy” & realities of time travel in his suffocating suburban idyll. Whatever “Horror Film About An Angsty Teen” you’re thinking of, Donnie Darko is not that, nor is it a film about time travel per se. This “cult classic” spans & even transcends several film genres in a way that excites, confuses, & terrifies you all at once. Donnie Darko will definitely delight anyone who was entertained by Stranger Things but thought it was neither dark nor deep enough. Indeed: “Every living creature on Earth dies alone.”

Hellraiser (Available on Netflix)

The threshold between desire & obsession isn’t necessarily narrow but crossing it can prove deadly, so Hellraiser suggests. The film, which spawned one of the most eldritch of villains in all of horror (the guy has pins “driven through to the bone” on his FACE), is more than just a gory love triangle set in a haunted house of sorts; it’s a nightmarish jaunt toward the bloody extremes our unchecked impulses will lead us to reach for. But of course, there’s plenty of death to entertain (read: drown out any of the more metaphysical questions the film raises), which should be good enough for anyone just looking for a proper fright.

The Witch (Available on Amazon Prime)

If you didn’t like the length, mood, or overall “feel” of Blade Runner 2049, then you might want to shrug off my suggestion that you check out the brooding “modern” horror gem that is The Witch. But if you’re willing to put your phone aside for an hour & a half (it’s tough, I know, but by no means impossible), & open to experiencing another world on its own strange & haunting terms, then get to watching The Witch immediately. The film takes place in colonial America, tracing the lives of a family after their expulsion from a Puritan community. Forced to live on the marge of the wilderness because of differences over scriptural interpretation, the family soon loses its youngest member (a baby, to rip the wound wider open) to forces that—given the era & family’s beliefs—could only be attributed to (no less in antiquated language) a witch in the woods whose “spirit slips away from [her] body and dances naked with The Devil” when asleep. “Clickety-clackety-clickety-clackety!” Trust me when I say that you haven’t seen a wicked broomstick-rider like the one director Robert Eggers depicts, so hold on to your children & get to watching, my pretties! *cackles*

The Thing (Available on Showtime)

Even if you haven’t seen John Carpenter’s Halloween, you can’t escape its legacy: killer Michael Myers’ iconic white mask. Be that as it may, there is a far more vicious monster in another film of his—one that may at first look like a man but is decidedly nothing like Man. That film is The Thing, & it follows a team of scientists in Antarctica as they unearth from the ice some “thing” decidedly, terrifyingly unearthly. The Thing is what Alien would be if the latter took place on Earth & if its stakes—for the characters & for us as a species—were MUCH higher. The ending might have you looking very differently (i.e., suspiciously) of everyone around you.

The Brood (Available on Filmstruck)

We can all agree that there’s nothing scarier than a child, right? Right. I can hear your ringing agreement over the Internet. As kids are indeed objectively terrifying (again, that’s a scientific FACT), imagine a whole swarm of them bent on killing you for reasons seemingly inexplicable. Well, said “reasons” get explained eventually in the movie, but only in a finale that is as grotesque and horrifying as anything David Cronenberg (a director famous among horror buffs for his “exploding head” scene, for one) could ever dream up. If the above GIF doesn’t make you hurl a little, then either you’re a psychopath or you live for horror. Either way, you should probably check out the movie.

Well, babes, at least for this weekend, don’t say you don’t know what to watch. And remember: doot doot!

Stay spooky,
KM

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What Twitter’s New Character Limit Means For Marketers

For everyone who has ever felt as if Twitter’s character limit is too limiting, rejoice! The platform is planning to double the number of characters you can tweet to 240. For some (particularly the verbose), this is a welcome change. For others, well…not so much.

Screen Shot 2017-10-20 at 5.07.21 PM

But why the change & what does it mean for marketers?

Twitter’s Product Manager & Senior Software Engineer answer the former question on the company’s blog, writing that raising the character ceiling is an attempt to alleviate the “pain” you experience when “[t]rying to cram your thoughts into a Tweet”. Fair enough. Waiting in line at my local cafe for my daily IV of espresso, I every so often think of a bon mot that, because of the 140 character limit, I end up having to chisel at to avoid exceeding said ceiling. It’s annoying if not time-consuming, yet it’s exactly the kind of D-R-A-M-A I signed up for when I became a digital marketer.

But this “isn’t a problem everywhere people Tweet”. BuzzFeed Japan editor Daisuke Furuta points out that a 280 character limit is already more or less “how Twitter is in Japan,” considering that the Japanese language can pack more information into a single character qua “logogram” than English (among other languages). Furuta likens the efficiency of using logograms to that of emojis, which allow one to communicate “eggplant” or “balloon” in a single character. (Unfortunately, there’s no emoji yet that comes close to conveying to a friend from high school with whom I haven’t talked in years that I have no interest whatsoever in attending her bachelorette party, let alone in carrying on any conversation with her.)

Despite Twitter’s official explanation, there is speculation that the decision stems from a motive other than generosity or fairness, namely, that of a financial nature. Really, the change is probably a strategic attempt at attracting new users to a platform investors have not been kind to given that its user growth has more or less stalled out. But whatever Twitter’s “real” motivations may be, change is coming, & marketers like myself need to start thinking about & preparing for what it will mean to live in a world with a 280 character limit.

Some in the industry have expressed concern that the move could yield “a ‘use it because we have it’ mentality,” which could lead to more diluted brand messages. (To say more than one needs to is just a waste of time for both content creators & the readers of their work.) Barring an increase in the time an “average” user spends on the platform (or in her reading speed), an uptick in wordier tweets means that less tweets will cross the eyeballs of such a user. A more cynical (if not fantastical) imagination can easily dream up a “race to the bottom” of verbosity in which brands defer to bloat by default so as to crowd out the competition in a person’s feed. It would be the digital form of the “gift” from hell that is manspreading, in other words. And absolutely nobody worth knowing wants that.

To be sure, Twitter isn’t forcing anyone to to hit the character limit whenever they tweet. But some marketers worry that brand managers (for one) will pressure them to reach the new limit (“Umm can we get some more hashtags & emojis in there? K thanks!”), & that such a push might dampen a marketer’s average output. It will take more energy, time, &, of course, money to produce just as many tweets if one deems reaching the character limit the goal. There are always limits to our resources, & a more long-winded Twitter could mean a serious shift in the way businesses divvy up marketing budgets (which on average dedicate about 20% to social media). However marketers end up adjusting financially, some have deduced from current planetary alignments that a weightier work burden is almost definitely on the way.

But to all those who worry—be they marketers or not—that lengthier tweets will lead to the death of Twitter culture as many know it, Furuta replies that in Japan, there are “just as many hilarious memes, weird Twitter subcultures, and massive cultural moments based on tweets as” there are in America. Things are A-OK “in the long-tweet future,” Furuta writes. “You’ll love it, or at least you’ll only hate it as much as you hate Twitter already.”

Indeed, regardless of how much you can say in a single tweet, it’s what you say & how you say it that is still of the utmost importance. To put it another way, quality still outshines quantity. As copywriter Chris Sugrue writes, “A lesson here is that whether users are writing in bursts of 140, 280 or 10,000 characters, it will still take fresh ideas and compelling links and CTAs to get people clicking.” It’s a lesson we should all consider as a new frontier of tweeting lies just ahead.

@ me,
Krissi

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