How to find creative inspiration when you're bang out of ideas
“There's a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don't, and the secret is this: It's not the writing part that's hard. What's hard is sitting down to write. What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance.”
— Steven Pressfield in The War of Art It’s a familiar predicament for writers of all kinds – feeling uninspired, unenthused and utterly bereft of ideas. Waiting to be visited by the grace of inspiration can make creative block worse, as it opens the door to self-doubt, resistance and excuses. Here are four different ways to defeat that hump and have your words flowing onto the page once more.
Change your environment
One of the simplest ways to refresh your mind is to get out of your usual habitat and explore different spaces. A day trip to an unfamiliar place can give your mindset a complete overhaul and provide heaps of new writing ideas.
Museums, art galleries and libraries are treasure troves of information and sensory stimuli. In these places, ideas spring equally from discrete ‘people-watching’ as they do from viewing exhibitions or reading books.
You don't even have to venture that far to escape familiar comfort zones and to discover new experiences and fresh inspiration. Taking a different route home than usual, or just listening to new music can be enough to shift your brain out of the mundane familiarity of everyday life and remind you of the diverse abundance of inspiration just beyond your usual reach. Just start writing
Charles Bukowski said: “Writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all.” If you are stuck for what to write about, write about that. How does that feel? Why are you stuck? Fear is often at the root of resistance.
We are frequently told to write about what we care about: well, fear is a sign that you care very deeply about something, even if you’re not quite sure what that something is. Steven Pressfield wrote, “The amateur believes he must first overcome his fear; then he can do his work. The professional knows that fear can never be overcome.”
So, the answer seems obvious: write in spite of the fear. In her seminal handbook of creative and spiritual recovery, The Artists’ Way, Julia Cameron recommends that artists of all disciplines start each day by writing Morning Pages: three pages longhand of stream-of-consciousness writing about absolutely anything that flows forth, without judgement or editing. The pages are strictly for your eyes only: a powerful, highly personal daily ritual to clear the mind and set oneself up for the day’s creative work.
It has long been held that physical activity helps to keep the mind ticking over. As far back as the 5th century BC, Socrates extolled the benefits of walking barefoot to stimulate cognitive processes.
Recent research supports that hypothesis, with a 2014 Stanford University study showing that walking boosts creative thinking and problem-solving skills. A regular exercise habit, especially out in nature or in/on water, is one of the best ways to relieve stress and keep the body — including that all-important organ, the brain — performing at an optimum level.
Even if you aren’t able to get out into the wilderness, taking a break to move around and stretch your legs every 90 minutes or so is proven to refresh your creative energy. This way, you can continue doing your best work even when you’re pressed for time.
Out of the mouths of babes
Children are bubbling fountains of inspiration. Even if you aren’t a parent yourself, just spending time talking and hanging out with a friend or relative’s child can give you a valuable fresh perspective on everyday life to spark your idling creativity.
Most people — especially the weary and cynical among us — can learn a great deal from the wonder and joy with which children approach the world. Fearless, endlessly playful and often brutally honest, children will always say something to make you laugh, think, or both.
Sometimes, all you need to lift you out of your creative funk is a four-year-old shouting silly words on the bus. Make sure to keep your notepad handy.
As a freelance writer, Harper has spent countless hours crafting articles for awesome blogs and local sites such as Harrows. She has found many ways to recharge and get her creative juices flowing, but her absolute favourite is the 10-minute power nap! Follow Harper and more of her work on Tumblr.