Weird Ways to Beat Writer’s Block
Hint: they don’t involve writing
Creativity is fickle. It requires a combination of motivation and inspiration, and sometimes the weather has to be just right or the stars aligned, or it strikes at 2am when you have to get the kiddos to school the next day, or sometimes when you’re in the shower or on the toilet.
But sometimes creativity doesn’t strike at all. It gets stuck in the big muddy bog of your personal ennui, self-doubt, mental fatigue, or lack of inspiration. We’ve all been there. When creativity derails, no amount of force will make it better, which you’ll discover quickly if you try to bulldoze through it.
So how do you shake it? For starters, leaving your comfort zone is a great way to loosen up stagnant energy and shift your mind back toward creativity, and to rediscover what keeps you motivated and inspired. Here’s how to do that.
How to Get Your Flow Going
Get In the Kitchen
Cooking and baking aren’t for everyone, I get it, but you can’t deny that food is a universal source of pleasure and inspiration. Consider the elements that parallel writing, such as the smell of food (hooking your reader), the variable list of ingredients (characters), the mixing and combining (sentence structures), the baking or cooking process (revision), savoring the finished product (manuscript publication), or even burning the crap out of it and having to scrap it and start again. Often a few days in the kitchen is enough to flip that stuck switch in your brain, allowing your mind to feel the spoils of successful creation.
Writing is so sedentary and internal it can reduce you to zombie status in no time. Getting outdoors is one of the simplest ways to combat this. Go for a hike and absorb the drool-inducing beauty of nature, and while you’re moving, start to imagine how a story might develop in your surroundings. What kind of historical fiction might take place there? What sort of fantastical creatures could lurk in the trees? What might it look like far in the future? If hiking isn’t an option, stroll around the block and imagine the people who live in the houses around you. Get in the garden and spend time noticing the birds and insects that inhabit your yard. Breathe in that glorious fresh air and you’ll quickly find your head clearing.
Go For a Drive
Sometimes creative blocks are due to a lack of movement in your life, which can be the symbolic kind or the physical. Why not jump in the car and hit the road? Cruise to the next town, take a stunning scenic route, visit your favorite overlook, or sail down the freeway with your jams at full crank and let your whims determine your destination. Let the movement of the road stir up your inner stagnation. Often just the act of moving can get your creative juices flowing again.
This might sound a little woo-hoo, but sometimes writer’s block is due to feeling insecurity or lack, which causes anxiety and gets you all kinds of stuck. Sitting in a gratitude meditation for fifteen minutes can help you realize how much is going well for you. Find a free guided meditation online, or just simply sit in a relaxed posture, feet on the floor and arms uncrossed, and tick off a list in your head. For example, you might say: “Thank you for the warm weather today. Thank you for my health. Thank you for the brilliant article I read about writer’s block today.” You get the picture. If this feels a bit strange, you can also write your gratitude in a journal. But practicing this every day changes your brain and makes you feel good, and feeling good is like a battery for creative energy.
Get away from your desk and spend half an hour doing yoga, go for a run, lift weights, ride a bike, chase the neighbor’s kids off your lawn, whatever. You’ll return to your writing with a clear head, a happy body, and you’ll have shaken loose some of your stuck energy. If you spend long days writing or working at a desk, take a break every hour and move for 5–10 minutes. Sedentary behavior is a creativity killer.
Get a Pet
If you have a furry beast in your house, get on the floor and play with them. Hold them, smooch them, talk to them like a dork, and enjoy their company. There’s a reason hospitals and caregivers use pets for therapy. They boost your mood and cleanse your mind of the doldrums. Sometimes an animal’s unflappable, goofy joy is enough to restore your drive.
Go to Bed
Last but not least, you may need to step away from your writing and sleep on it. Before you go to bed, ask yourself what needs to happen next to get your story going. Don’t think about the answer. Just ask the question, and your subconscious mind will start working on a solution while you sleep. I know, it sounds too good to be true, but I kid you not, Abraham Lincoln supposedly did this when he was faced with a conundrum and it worked for him. It might work for you too.
Don’t Give Up
Every writer occasionally gets stuck. It’s human nature, and part of the creative process. Don’t give up on your writing or your work. You’ll get there.
If you need more ways to get inspired, try reading books or short stories or graphic novels similar to what you’re working on. Watch a weird movie. Join a writer’s circle for tips on how to move forward with your particular story. Listen to writing podcasts to absorb the fist-pumping passion of other writers.
If you keep moving, keep looking for new things in the world, and keep going back to your writing desk, you’ll eventually get there. I promise.
For more on creative inspiration, check out this article: