By J.D. Huffman
Sometimes, creativity comes easily. Inspiration strikes, a flurry of activity follows, and before long you have a result you feel good about. It’s great–it’s the rush that makes you recommend creative pursuits to others. It often feels wonderful, from start to finish, and it keeps you coming back for more.
This is the side of creativity everyone loves to talk about.
But there’s the other side of the coin: being blocked. Inspiration is elusive, the creative high is gone, and you feel like you’re beating your head against a wall. You ask yourself: is this even worth it? Should I even try? Why would anyone put themselves through this?
There are mountains of advice on fighting creative blocks, and writer’s block in particular. But they all boil down to the same basic idea: do something else. It’s counter-intuitive, but it works. Human brains are tricky things, and often resist being forced to do something when they aren’t in the mood. This is why blocks intensify and frustration mounts the more you try to force your way through it.
My personal go-tos for getting through those times my creative engines just won’t start are pretty simple:
- Take a walk.
- Go for a long drive.
- Take a shower.
- Flip through some oblique strategies. (These are often a big help.)
You’ll notice that what they all have in common is not writing, although a particularly good oblique strategy might help give me the nudge I need to get back to it.
What about those times when you feel like writing but you don’t know what to write? Again, the advice is simple, if not necessarily easy to follow. Write about anything. Write what you see. Write what you’re thinking. Write about how hard it is to not know what to write. Write about your doubts, your successes, your fears, your ambitions. Take a character–yours or someone else’s–and play through a scene or conversation with them. Don’t worry about where it’s going, or what the point is supposed to be. Don’t worry about whether it’s something you’ll be able to publish, or even feel like showing anyone else. Creation is a means to its own end. Having created is what matters–not what you end up doing with it later.
Don’t get caught up in trying to make everything perfect the first time, and give yourself a break when you need it. Even if you’ve had a very long break, don’t despair: every journey begins with a single step, and you can take that step right now. It’s more important to be on the path than to have a fixed destination.