In this article:
- Overcoming writer’s block or any other creative lull can feel impossible, but it’s often stress-related as you put too much pressure on yourself to be perfect or to do too much.
- Even when it feels impossible, there are ways to overcome the block stopping you from creating your masterpiece.
- But sometimes, that creative slump is just your brain telling you it needs to rest. So taking a break from the project to go for a walk or spend some time in nature can rejuvenate your tired brain.
We’ve all been there. The blank canvas. The Word document that doesn’t have a single word on it. The looming task of having to create something but having no earthly idea where to start. It’s intimidating, to say the least.
As a full-time writer, I certainly know the feeling of having to create something from nothing but not knowing how to begin. Well, luckily, I’ve discovered a couple of tricks to help you spur on your creativity and start working.
Whether you’re a professional writer, artist, musician, or just someone who likes to create in their free time, you’ve probably experienced how frustrating it can be to go through a creative lull.
The first step in getting over that hump is to forgive yourself and recognize that every creative person goes through their peaks and valleys, even your Picassos, Steinbecks, and Mozarts. Once you can forgive yourself, you can start taking the necessary steps to get those creative juices flowing again.
Now, these tricks are not surefire methods that will lead you to completing your magnum opus. At the end of the day, the creativity has to come from within you. However, you should start to feel a bit more motivated, a bit less worried, and actually start putting pen to paper (or brush to canvas).
1. Forget the Finished Product
Half of the time, the thing that keeps us from beginning our creative work is the fear that the finished product will not live up to the standards we set for ourselves or, perhaps, the standards that someone else has set for us.
Just forget the finished product for a bit. Try to have fun. If the task you’ve set out to complete is an illustration, then spend some time doodling freely just to see what comes out. If you have to write an article, then take 20 minutes and just write whatever comes to your head, regardless of how profound or stupid it might be.
After you’ve spent some time freestyling, return to the task at hand. I guarantee you’ll have more clarity and ideas than you did before. When you let your mind go free, it can take you to places that you may not have gotten to with concentrated effort.
You may even be able to draw inspiration from certain aspects of your freestyling session. At the very least, you’ll feel more relaxed and less stressed about starting whatever it is you have to create.
If you’ve been sitting in a chair and staring at a blank page for an hour, get up out of that chair and move around! Take a walk around the block. Pump out a whole bunch of push-ups. Do some jumping jacks.
Whatever it is, just get your blood flowing. Studies have shown that increasing blood flow to the brain can have massive positive effects on focus and creativity. Even a short stint of exercise can help you return to your project feeling fresh and lucid.
Personally, I’ve found that walking at a comfortable speed is one of the best ways to kickstart my creativity. I feel that my heart rate increases just enough to pump some extra blood to my brain, but I’m not putting in so much effort that my brain needs to focus on what my legs are doing. Thus, I can direct all of my mental effort to thinking about the task I need to complete.
3. Deep Breathing
This one sounds extremely simple and cliched, but there’s actually science to support it. Take a deep breath. Then another. And another. In addition to getting blood to your brain, getting oxygen to your brain is also vitally important to the creative process.
If you find yourself stuck, try taking a break from whatever project you’re working on and do some deep breathing and meditation. I guarantee it will help your mind function more effectively.
Even as you’re working, try taking short breaks to just do some deep breathing. Sit up (or stand up) straight and take a series of short, deep breaths as quickly as you can for about 30 seconds.
You may feel like a fool while you’re doing it, but it will help to oxygenate your brain and help your thought processes become more clear.
4. Turn Your Phone Off
Most of us have to use our phones for work. These days, it’s pretty much unavoidable. But, often, a phone can be nothing more than a source of distractions. How are you ever going to focus on the task at hand when your friends are sending you memes every five seconds?
If you aren’t waiting for an important text or call, turn off your phone and cut out those distractions.
Every time your phone screen lights up and draws your attention away from whatever you’re trying to create, it’s breaking your train of thought. Then, when you go to return to your project, you have to start that train of thought from the beginning (if you haven’t lost it completely, that is).
Do yourself a favor and power down your phone. Those memes that your friend sent you will still be there when you’ve finished your work.
5. Go Into Nature
Mother Nature is the greatest artist of all time. The forms of trees and plants and animals are more beautiful than anything that humankind has ever created. Nature can also be an endless source of inspiration.
Go into the woods or to the beach or to the desert. For city-dwellers, even heading into a nearby park will work. When you’re there, pay attention to the natural things around you. Study the differences between the grains of sand. Observe the ways that plants twist around each other and grow towards the sunlight. Watch carefully the movement of waves.
Doing these mind exercises will help you feel more alert, more present, and more relaxed. Researchers have found that spending time in nature can significantly reduce cortisol, the chemical associated with stress, in the brain. So, after your walk through the woods or to the beach, you can return to your project feeling less stressed and more ready to get started.
6. Don’t Beat Yourself Up
If you can’t find it within yourself to be creative at this specific moment, don’t let it send you into a negative thought pattern. When creating seems especially hard, a lot of people have a tendency to start thinking things like, I’ll never finish this or I’m just not a creative person.
Don’t listen to those negative voices in your head! Everyone has off days. Michael Jordan had a game where he only scored two points. Don’t let one bad day get you thinking that you’re not good at what you do. Give yourself a break and accept the fact that everyone goes through slumps.
Putting yourself down doesn’t help in the creative process whatsoever. In fact, it does the exact opposite. Instead of thinking bad things about yourself when you’re in a creative lull, try thinking positive things.
Actually, try saying them out loud! Look yourself in the mirror and try to compliment yourself as much as possible. Get that energy and positivity flowing and I can guarantee that the creative task in front of you will get a whole lot easier.