There are days when it flows as free as the Rogue River (and anyone who’s ever been to Oregon knows that’s free indeed!) When ideas come so hard and fast you can scarcely keep up. When the words fly from your fingers, through the keyboard, and onto the page. When creativity happens, it’s electric, exciting, energizing.
And then there are other days.
Days when you sit at the keyboard, staring at a blank screen. When you type…delete…type…delete…and on and on. Every word is a struggle, every character wooden, every plot point contrived. And you ask yourself, for the 110th time, “Why?”
Why did you ever think you could be a writer??
So what’s a writer to do when creativity seems a thing of the past? Well, I’ve got a few ideas. But first I’d like to hear from you.
What sparks your creativity? Where do you go, what do you do, when you need to refill those creative wells deep within?
Can’t wait to read your thoughts!
When I struggle with creativity, I switch to another work-in-progress so that I’m working with a fresh character, a fresh story. My mind is most creative when I take a walk and think; physical movement wakes up my mind.
Though many things inspire; God’s beautiful creation, other writers, window shopping or people watching, the most helpful is always seeking God.
I still haven’t gotten used to other writers commenting on the same things I’m feeling or dealing with. Our job is so solitary that we often feel alone. What you are talking about today, Karen, gives me hope. Because I’m going through a dry time in creativity. And though I know a break through will come, I am so ready to get back to it.
Now to spend the day seeking. Thank you for opening the discussion and for posting about this area. It is very difficult to deal with, but there is hope, and I am not alone.
In order to be creative, I need to be inspired. I like to watch trailers of my all time favorite movies (or movies I hope to watch) to get that inspiration, (and then creativity,) flowing. 🙂
I love to switch mediums. This one’s a first, but over the holidays I reupholstered a favorite chair in burlap coffee bags (which I’ve been nutso over lately). Piecing and cutting, sewing and glue-gunning and the pound of the electric staple gun stretched me physically an creatively. More often, I knit or paint or delve into a graphic design project. Any creative venture is a welcome break that helps broaden me in general, which helps open my mind to new ideas for story and plot and characters.
My picture book, I was inspired by my granddaughter and the tornado in No. FL. but most of the time, I read everything but especially YA books. Something someone will say or do. I Let Go and Let God and it is His leading me to these inspirations. Blessings, Janet
Lisa Carter Sweet Tea with a Slice of Murder
When creativity flows more like molasses than honey, I have to take a walk . . . or jump in the shower (yes, I’m weird that way) . . . or some other mindless routine. Cleaning the house is usually the last thing I’ll try—an act of desperation. 🙂
Music! I listen to music that speaks to and for my character. I also like to journal “as” that character to get in their head a little bit. These help a lot!!!
The three things that seem to help me most when I’m in a slump are:
1. Write away. Take my laptop to a coffee shop or a park or a B&B or somewhere that’s NOT my house. That clears away distractions and gets words flowing like nothing else.
2. Choose a soundtrack for the scene I’m working on. If it’s a romantic scene, I choose classical or something with strings. If it’s a suspenseful scene, I pick a movie soundtrack that sets the mood. Pandora is great for this.
3. Brainstorm with my hubby or a friend. Sometimes the friend doesn’t even have to say much, but just talking out my plot or the scene helps me get going again.
When my creativity is lacking, I go outside–no matter how cold–and run like crazy. That usually gets the creative juices flowing.
Thanks for this post, it’s fun to read everyone’s thoughts!
What I’ve found works for me (I’m an extrovert) is to go to Starbucks and be around people. Their voices become white noise to me. They are my “soundtrack” to life. And they energize me. THen, I use one of Deb’s tricks: write anyway. I discovered once I do, I get caught up in the flow and write more than I thought I could.
A lot of times I get ideas from sermons or reading God’s Word. It is a great place to go for inspiration!
How cool to see what other authors I am blessed to have several outlets. Prayer first and foremost. I have brainstormed with my co-author, critique group, husband, or friends. Also, I have to admit some of my most exciting ideas have come while I was in the shower. (I only have the courage to make that confession because Lisa Carter had the bravery to admit it first.) Sometimes, I’ve even skipped a plot point because another scene is brighter in my mind. When on deadline, I just keep plodding on – the words stack up and eventually I reach the end…like now.
Sometimes talking to other friends who are writers really helps. I am writing about the supernatural realm and was struggling for ideas. My writer friend suggested I read “Paradise Lost” and BAM! My brain was filled with great ideas for my story aftering reading that book.
I also gather ideas during sermons or just reading through the Bible or watching a good movie.
But there is inspiration out there! Go find it!
I don’t know if I would call it a lack of creativity, but I have times when I would rather be doing something else than writing. When I actually force myself to sit down and write, I don’t have much trouble finding something to write. The big problem is just convincing myself to do it.
Melissa K. Norris
I find going outdoors works wonders. Being surrounded by what God made always inspires me. I usually end going for a run and something about the rythm of my feet on the blacktop gets ideas flowing. Of course, I have to remember them once I’m back at the laptop. 🙂
I open up a blank document and just start writing on whatever is going on in my WIP where I got stuck, starting with a question at the top, like “Where could that be hidden?” I may have weird answers like, “on a cloud that is floating out of the sky,” but usually one or two answers actually make sense.
Getting in the shower seems to help, too, though it’s a problem when you have shampoo in your hair and nothing to write on!
I found a solution! Either use Crayons on the tile or buy this gizmo: http://www.etravelergear.com/ershownottab.html
LOL. Steve, that’s awesome. Guess what’s going on my wish list?
Haha! YES! I bet a writer invented that….
Pray. Sometimes I have a little talk with my characters and ask them what’s wrong. Dig a little deeper into their minds and hearts. There are times I just need to let them out of the box and play. After a little prodding, I can usually get them to go in a forward motion again. (Yeah, I know I’m crazy. But I’m not insane)
I once whined to my mom about not knowing what a particular character was going to do. She said, “Well, ask him!”
One trick I use is to open a new document and label it “Free Writing.” This triggers something in my brain and releases me to write whatever I want. Nine times out of ten, I use what I’ve written in my free writing session in my manuscript.
I’m loving all these ideas! QUIET is key for me! But with three kids under 6, I don’t get it often. I’m stuck a lot! 🙂 When I’m lucky and silence ensues, ideas usually come forth. If that doesn’t work, I read about the time period I write in or watch documentaries and that always gets my juices flowing.
A ride through the village on my bike in my Amish community takes me close to sights and sounds that remind me who I am writing about, and to. Then the pages come alive. 🙂
I go for a run or I’ll do something else creative like sew or knit to give my brain a switch of thought. I pray or take out a notebook and pen and just start free writing until the ideas start to make sense. And I love Cecil Murphy’s advice to stop and listen and see if I’m struggling because I’m on a project I don’t believe in or fit my values.
Sometimes I have to completely “re-boot.” I take a 10 minute nap and for some reason, that’s often enough to get the creativity flowing again. Other times I just make myself write what I think is garbage onto that blank page. Every now and then when I read it the next day I discover it might not be Pulitzer material, but it doesn’t stink either.
Don’t tell anyone, but I hang upside down! I wiggle around on the sofa until my head and feet have switched positions. Not only does the blood rush to my head and refresh those starving little blood cells, but I am forced to see things from a new perspective!
On a more normal note, I sing hymns as a reminder of Who is in control or organize drawers for the delusion that I am in control.
Am I the only one who still writes longhand? Maybe it’s from growing up with a manual typewriter, but I do my first draft in longhand, unless I’m writing a blog post. As I type the draft into MS-Word, I do my first edits.
When creativity is stifled, I shift gears and do something else. For you shower-thinkers, try a long soak in the tub instead — MUCH easier to write your ideas — most of the stories I wrote in 2011 started during my tub-time.
Sometimes I stop and look at ME, instead of the writing. Am I stuck because I need to work on me instead of it? (that’s not fun, btw, but is often essential).
and yard-work always helps. Even if I’m just out saying hi to the trees and shrubs and flowers instead of “working,” it helps.
For me, creativity is rarely triggered in isolation. Although a writer’s life is often solitary, inspiration comes from experiencing life outside of the four walls of our office. When I hit a dry spell, I get outside, gather around other people, try something new, or explore another creative outlet such as photography or painting. Trying new things, seeing how people react to different situations, hearing people’s stories, running outside all give me ideas and spark my creativity again.
Hmm – I started my noveling with NaNoWriMo, so I picked up the habit of writing about not being able to write, followed by musing on paper about character/situation/plot. I also have the idea file, plus ideas scribbled here and there, in little notebooks everywhere.
More than anything, though, I’ve developed a ‘there’s a story there’ attitude. I see potential stories everywhere now. The guy in the kilt turning on the sign of his British taxi car, followed by the guy walking his pig, becomes “Of Kilts and Pigs”. The NASA newsletter about the asteroid Vesta, and the meteorites that fell in Bilanga Yanga, Burkina Faso and Millbillillie, Australia, “They Call Me Vesta”. (Aren’t those awesome place names? Don’t they deserve their own story?) So I take a break from my work at hand, write a little on a new idea and then get back to business. Just plain fun!
Alternately, when creativity strikes I need to stop whatever I am doing and start writing immediately. Delaying even a few minutes can mean the difference between a quick and easy piece that I am proud of and spending three times the effort on something that I will never completely like.
I’m so glad you used the Rogue River. I can feel that thing threatening to sink me. Recently my writing attempts have not been like that. So this is a timely series. Thank you.
There are a couple things I’ve learned to help me get going when I’m trying to get molasses out of a Pine tree.
Write anyway. I literally include nonsense like “blah blah” and “go back, this is dumb” but I keep writing! A certain song and blue fish comes to mind but I won’t torture you.
Collage. Strange but true. If I rip up paper and start gluing-sometimes about a character sometimes a verse etc- it helps me be less critical of my initial creative attempts with writing.
Take a shower. Cuts distractions like my 5 kids and gives me a chance to brainstorm.
Maybe I could try using a comma every once in a while huh? Looks like I cut my kids. Ha!
I’m in a dry spell right now oddly enough. When picking up the laptop makes me want to cry, I’ll give myself a day off; always making sure the deadline is still meetable, of course. And I cook. Today I made stock from the beef bones from the Christmas roast (they’ve been in the freezer). And tomorrow I’m using that wonderful stock to make vegetable beef with barley soup. Using another creative outlet tends to rev up the writing one for me.
Peter Eleazar Missing
One of the greatest lessons I have learnt and I assiduously taught it to my children, is to not try so hard – indeed, when it came to hitting a ball, the harder they tried to hit it the more they missed, because the power in all sports is in timing, not brute force and ignorance.
Less is more. In my experience there is no greater barrier to creativity than trying too hard. Creative impulses reside in the sub-conscious, so when we consciously stop trying and even change our focus, we invoke our sub-consciousness and allow it to work. Whenever I hit creative barriers in life, I would go for a walk or visit a coffee shop or do a crossword puzzle or watch a movie, anything to release my mental tension and liberate my creativity again.
I’m so glad you wrote this post. On those dry days, sometimes you feel like the only one going through it, so this is a good reminder that we’re not alone.
What I do when I’m low on creativity is first, I pray for the Lord to show me what I’m supposed to write next. Second, I usually listen music. There are a couple artists that always have the ability to inspire me. The Fray is the main one. If that doesn’t work, then I just take a break and try again the next day.
Thanks for all your posts! Can’t wait to see part two!