Getting the motivation to make a good explainer video

February 18, 2019

Motivation: it’s quite literally why we do what we do. In an ideal world we’d have unlimited motivation to achieve our realistic ambitions. But for all us suckers here in the real world, that ain’t the case most of the time. Even when we’re fully aware something will improve our lives – like quitting added sugars or going to bed earlier – the motivation to actually take the steps to do it can be difficult to find.

Likewise, even though many company heads, brand owners, and agencies know that explainer videos are an effective way to engage new and existing audiences, finding the motivation to develop a script or even a basic idea of what you want can sometimes feel like pulling teeth. Don’t worry though – we’ve all been there before, and luckily we’ve got some top tips for getting those motivational vibes flowing.

1) Surround yourself with inspiration

Corporate creative work, like creating an explainer video, requires a certain sense of ‘flow’. You can’t follow a formula like you can for an essay, and you can’t fly by the seat of your pants like you might for a purely creative passion project. You need solid ideas backed by solid research on what works/what might work in the current market.

To get your head in the right mindset for brainstorming solid ideas, surround yourself with things that stimulate your inspiration – images, design schemes, colours, figurines, music, ambient sounds – anything that gets your head in the right state for the idea you’re trying to draw out.

2) Be bad at stuff

In my experience, the biggest motivation suck of all is the fear of failing. To get yourself over that hump it’s useful to give yourself active, safe permission to fail. If you’re trying to write a script, warm up first with silly exercises where you write whatever comes into your mind for two minutes, no matter how bad or hackneyed or cringeworthy. Read through your response, then do the exercise again. The purpose here is to simply get words down onto the page, to ‘get the bad ideas out of the way’ as it were so that the more unique ideas can start to take form.

3) Clean

You ever notice how much more appealing the idea of cleaning becomes once you have a mentally taxing task to do? The otherwise boring chore of cleaning then becomes the dynamic boon of productivity which we simply must complete this minute, putting our (more important) task to the side. It is the illusion of productivity, the idea that we’re not really procrastinating because we’re doing something useful, when in reality we’re pushing back more important tasks with lesser, easier ones (as an aside: this is the same reason that buying stationery and office supplies is so perversely enjoyable). And there are plenty of times where we need to resist the gnawing appeal of the anti-bacterial wet wipes and simply put our nose to the grindstone with writing that sweet new explainer script.

But if you’re really, truly struggling with motivation, sometimes the best thing to do is to set a timer, grab your cleaning supplies, and find that mental zen state where you can tune out and focus on nothing but the art of cleaning. When the time is up, come back to your important stuff with a clear mind (and hopefully a clean workspace), ready to tackle the task without distraction. So de-clutter your workspace. Clean your house. Wash your dishes. Whatever gets your mind into the zone, embrace it and come back fresher than ever.

4) Exercise

You only need to google ‘exercise and productivity’ to find countless studies and articles on how moderate exercise benefits our mood and our working memory ( Getting the blood pumping to also get our brain juices flowing is age-old advice, but it’s advice we’re often willing to push aside under the banner ‘I don’t have time’. The trick with this one is to specifically prioritise exercise by making it a part of your job. This can understandably be tricky with limited space or flexibility but still doable. Before you embark on a brainstorming session check out some simple desk exercises:

5) Familiarise yourself with what’s out there

Look at successful examples of explainers in your field of work. Study specifically what links the examples that you like, and what links those you don’t like, and structure your brainstorming around that. Researching what’s out there has the added benefit of making sure you’re not accidentally using an already overused idea.

6) Familiarise yourself with what’s even further out there

Look further outside your field, and outside your chosen medium. How can you combine interesting elements from different types of entertainment, different media, or from nature? (Just as an aside, I for one would love to see an explainer video in the style of a Norwegian crime drama.)

7) Do a mindfulness meditation

Sometimes (or if you’re like me, most of the time) the issue with getting motivated is not a lack of mental energy, but that our mental energy is being sapped by unhelpful thoughts. Whether it’s ruminating about the past, worrying about a future that hasn’t even happened yet, or replaying an argument in your head so this time you’re the one with all the snappy comebacks, these thoughts distract us from enjoying the present moment and being productive now for a better future.

Mindfulness is a practice where attention is drawn to the present moment by observing, and accepting, one’s physical and emotional responses. It’s a popular practice for treating stress, anxiety, and general mental health, but also has useful applications for both relaxation and focus. If you’re not sure where to start there are plenty of free mindfulness apps to check out (personally I recommend Smiling Mind for some great and free guided meditations:

8) Enlist some help

Alongside their animation and video services, many explainer production houses offer scriptwriting services with a sliding level of involvement. While nobody knows your business as well as you, sometimes all it takes to get the mind flowing with scriptwriting is to talk through your ideas with a professional.

Motivationally written by Maree Railton.