Having a creative outlet has lots of benefits. But when you find yourself running low on inspiration, it can bring on a real state of frustration. When you encounter a creative block, here are 10 ways to keep moving forward:
1. Move Your Body
When I spend too much time sitting at my desk, I often find myself in a major brain fog. This is why I take a short walk every day during my lunch hour. Even if I’m doing work that doesn't feel super creative, even coming up with solutions to problems is easier after getting up and moving around.
2. Try a Free Write
This might be one of the most repeated pieces of advice for pushing past a slump, but that’s because it’s usually effective. The beauty of forcing yourself to put pencil to paper (or fingertips to keyboard) is that you can alleviate some of the pressure of making something ‘good.’ Take some time to write that first draft. Just getting down what’s on your mind can be formative. Even if 99% of what you do isn’t usable, the 1% that sticks can turn into something great.
3. List Things Out
Similar to free creating, making a list can help kick your creativity into gear. You could list the first influencers in your field that come to mind, your project ideas, or even just 20 random words. There are no rules in this game, and it can prove to be a super generative exercise.
4. Jot Down Ideas While on the Go
So many ideas materialize for a second before disappearing forever—in the shower, in the car, before bed. Taking time to write down these thoughts can seem like so much work, but unless you have a truly impeccable memory, you should write down ideas as they come to you, so you can flesh them out later.
5. Have a Chat
While the mythic figure of the lonely creative locked away with their project still exists, interactions can also be fruitful. If you’re feeling stuck in a rut, open yourself up to hearing someone else’s ideas. Learning what they’re watching, reading, and listening to could be the jumping off point that inspires you to delve into your next big project. If nothing else, interacting with another human typically proves to be more intellectually stimulating than staring at a blank page for hours on end.
6. Do Nothing
Trying too hard can be counterproductive. There are so many things in everyday life that need our attention that sometimes the practical things that have to be done can choke out our creativity. When this happens, try to do nothing. Sit with your thoughts. Relax. I know it can be harder than it seems, but just sitting in silence for 20 minutes can give you the space you need to let your mind wander into something great.
7. Create a Creative Routine...
Starting something new can jumpstart creativity. If you’ve never tried carving out a specific time to work at your creative endeavours, you might be surprised to find that knowing you have to be in a specific place at a specific time to fulfill a specific task can corral your mind into focus.
8. ... and Break Your Traditional Routine
If you’ve been doing the whole same place, same time routine for a while only to find that your creativity well hath run dry, dumping this old obligation may give your mind the freedom to roam. Then, it can come up with ideas it couldn’t come up with while restrained.
When I was an undergraduate student, Starbucks was my go-to place to hammer out papers that were pushing their deadlines. However, working on writing projects there now doesn’t work the way it used to. I get distracted and end up spending hours mindlessly reading Facebook, so I decided to ditch the ‘Bucks and alternate between other work spaces. Believe it or not, it's worked.
9. Copy Someone
Not only is imitation the sincerest form of flattery, but it can also be the step you need to create something others long to imitate. Reproducing a work you admire can put you back in touch with what you like about your discipline and how you can improve on old ideas.
10. Try Something New
Similar to breaking routines, trying a new experience can help awaken something you didn’t even realize you wanted. When we’re exposed to the same stimuli day in and day out, your thoughts can feel stale, and coming up with new ideas can seem daunting. Try cooking a new meal or taking a class to try out a new skill. You never know, a new passion or story to tell can be the push you need to go out and express yourself.
Kayla Heisler is an essayist and Pushcart Prize-nominated poet. She is a contributing writer for Color My Bubble. Her work appears in New York's Best Emerging Poets anthology.