If you’re someone who creates things regularly, you’ve likely gone through a bout of writer’s block. For the sake of this article, writer’s block will be the term I use (as it’s most commonly referred to), but what I’m really referring to is “creator’s block,” because whether writing music, novels, articles… or drawing or painting or filming (and so forth) … it’s all pretty much the same feeling. You know the one I’m talking about: a complete creative shutdown.
Here are 7 tips to get you out of your creative rut and show writer’s block the door.
#1: Read Something
This one’s some advice I once received from a supervising professor when I was stuck writing my thesis: if you’re stuck writing, start reading. Now, in that particular instance, the content I was referred to be reading about was material directly related to the research I was conducting, but you don’t necessarily have to read about what it is you’re trying to create to be inspired.
For example: how often is it that you see songs inspired by writers? Books inspired by art? Art inspired by history? Films inspired by books? You can see where I’m going with this. You might not be inspired to write about the same subject you were working on, but once the creative juices are flowing again, you can quickly return back to your main project with a possible new one to work on as well.
There’s always a new source of inspiration right around the bend if you pick up a book and start reading.
#2: Try Writing Something Out Of Your Regular Niche
Maybe you’re regularly a writer. If you’ve hit a creative wall in your writing, try drawing something instead. Not too handy with visual arts (like yours truly)? Maybe try writing a song, even if just giving some lyrics a shot. Still too far for comfort? Try writing non-fiction if you regularly write fiction, or try writing fiction if you usually write non-fiction.
The point is, mix it up.
Personally, as a musician, I have very diverse musical tastes, so when I’m working on a heavy metal project, and I get stuck… I go pick up my acoustic guitar and start working on something lighter and more mellow. As I’m also a writer, I’m currently doing my best to write a novel, but it’s a big project, so whenever I get caught staring blankly at an empty screen, I switch things up. Usually, that means I go and write some short poetry (also in a notebook instead of on my computer) to keep my writing tools sharp and my creative mind active.
Trying something new will allow you to separate your work while still stimulating your creative mind. The best part is, by being something new, it will always feel fresh… and fresh is useful for getting those creative sparks to fly again.
#3: Clear Your Head
This one’s a matter of personal tastes, but go do something that clears your head. For reasons unknown to me, whenever I need to loosen up my creative side, I find moving water creatively stimulating. I can’t tell you how many songs I wrote while sitting in a hot tub, staring up at the stars, but it’s a lot. Now, as I don’t have regular access to a hot tub anymore, I find those hot tub moments have been replaced with a nice hot shower (where I often catch myself frequently jumping out to jot down new ideas).
Whether it be a walk in the woods, meditation, some quiet time with candles/incense / the Necronomicon… inspiration often strikes us when we’re relaxed and clear-headed, so go do something that lets you loosen up and wind down.
#4: Change Your Setting
Many of us have a go-to creative workspace. We write at the same desk. We paint/draw in our art studio. We write music in our jam space. Often times, we do these things in such routines that we create at the same time of day every day and the same days of the week every week.
While consistency is definitely vital in forming productive habits (and creating things is no exception), sometimes a little change of scenery can do us some good and bring us out of monotony.
Try shaking things up a bit and write at a coffee shop for awhile, go outside with the acoustic guitar, or take your sketchbook to the park. Sometimes a little change is all we need to get us back to normal.
#5: Try Writing Out Of Sequence
Perhaps it’s because we regularly perceive things as linear, but frequently we assume that our work has to be linear too. Stories aren’t told in jumbles; they start at the beginning, end at the end, and the middle fills the space between the two. But do we have to write them that way?
Got a great idea for an ending? Good, write it down! Got a sweet guitar riff for a bridge that doesn’t fit in with the song you’re working on? Cool! Save it or build around it and see what happens!
Art might be composed of many lines… but nobody ever said it has to be created in one.
#6: Just Do It
The Nike slogan might just be the key to beating writer’s block: sometimes, you just have to do it. Just start writing. It doesn’t matter what you write, but sit down and put whatever comes out down on the page. It doesn’t even matter if it’s crap… because you can always come back and edit later.
Don’t even an idea? Well… that itself is an idea, so why not write about nothing then, just to get something down?
Here’s an example of what I mean:
One of my absolute favorite songs by my favorite band (Nightwish) is a song called “Dead Gardens.” You know what it’s about? Writer’s block.
Tuomas Holopainen, the band’s primary songwriter, was going through a severe period of writer’s block. When fresh out of ideas, he decided to write a song in which he poetically describes the feeling of going through writer’s block. Pure genius? I personally think so.
For those who are interested, you can find the song with lyrics here: Dead Gardens (Nightwish)
There is always something to write about because even nothing itself is something.
#7: Take A Break
If all efforts of shaking writer’s block have failed, you might just need to take a break. Give yourself some rest and go do something else. Catch up on sleep and forget about creating anything for the day. Going through a bit of writer’s block is not anything to beat yourself up over or feel bad about; we as creators all go through it eventually.
Remember: you can always try again tomorrow. Sometimes the best remedy for lack of productivity is taking some time to do nothing at all.